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6 Tips for choosing a pediatrician

It doesn’t seem like it should take a degree in rocket science to find a good doctor for your new baby, but for some reason it isn’t always an easy task. During that first year after my baby was born, I found myself wishing there was a TV show called “So You Think You Are a Pediatrician.” I would have loved to watch all of my child’s potential doctors try out in front of a live television audience and a panel of expert mommies.

baby in pediatrician's arms

The truth is there are thousands of wonderful doctors out there, but everyone is different and you have to know what you are looking for. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends interviewing each candidate and asking a series of questions to determine whether a particular doctor is a good fit for your family. The list below will help you determine your needs and get you headed in the right direction.

1Start with a few good recommendations

If you happen to have a friend who has children and a similar perspective on medicine, ask for a recommendation. Oftentimes, this is the easiest way to get a few good candidates without having to blindly scour the Internet. If you don’t have any friends who like their doctors, try asking the local children’s hospital for their list of recommended pediatricians.

2Check for availability

How easy is it to schedule a routine appointment? Does the office schedule same-day appointments for sick children? What are the office hours? Is emergency coverage available after the office is closed?

Nowadays, many pediatric offices will stay open until the last sick child is seen on any particular day, so if that is important to you be sure to check on the office policy. Doctors who practice in a large office with several other pediatricians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners typically have more openings than those who practice alone. On the other hand, in a large office like the one just described, you might find yourself seeing a physician assistant instead of your own pediatrician much of the time.

3Find a doctor that supports your view of health and wellness

Do you have a specific view of medicine or wellness that you want to share with your child’s pediatrician? Are you interested in holistic healthcare, homeopathy or other forms of alternative medicine? Will your doctor support your views on breastfeeding, circumcision and immunization? Does your child have any special needs?

If you have any particular medical concerns, make sure to question your potential doctor up front. Be sure that you will be comfortable with the type of advice he offers. Don’t be shy. Put all your concerns on the table up front and find a doctor whose advice you will appreciate and find valuable.

4Scope out the office

Visit the office and check out the waiting area. Is it clean and family friendly? Is the office staff personable and kind? Are there separate waiting areas for those who are sick and those who are well?

5Check out your doctor’s bedside manner

Take time to interview your top three candidates. Does the doctor interact directly with your children in an open, sincere and friendly manner? Does he explain things in a way that you can understand? Is he willing to spend time with you and answer all your questions? Some doctors won’t take the time to have an interview with prospective patients. This is probably a good indication of the amount of time they will be willing to spend with you later.

6This isn’t Burger King, but you can have it your way

If you find yourself with a doctor who you are unhappy with, don’t be afraid to make a change. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable with your caregiver and unable to trust his or her advice. It is important that you share certain basic values with your pediatrician for the relationship to be useful to your family. Keep an open mind, keep searching and eventually you will find a doctor who you admire and adore.

Read more about your child’s health care

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