How to Select Your Pediatrician

Select Your Pediatrician
Take care when you select your pediatrician.

Many clients often ask me about how to select the right pediatrician (or healthcare provider) for their family. Although in one sense it seems easy to select your pediatrician, I actually think it’s somewhat like finding your partner. It takes a bit of research and time to get to know one another and see if the relationship works. Some of my clients have found pediatricians whom they thought were nice, but when it came down to tough decisions or family values, they didn’t feel as though they were on the same page. Even though all pediatric healthcare providers do the same basic health assessments, vaccinations, etc, many differ in their care-giving demeanor, personal values, and their own parenting methods.

I think it is worth the time and effort to select a pediatrician (or pediatric health care provider) that you trust to ask any and all of your parenting and healthcare questions. Be sure to use the How to Find a Pediatrician or Family Doctor Planning Guide that is a companion to this article to organize your thoughts as you read through the article.

How to Select Your Pediatrician: Top 5 Things to Consider

  1. Ask your friends and family members who have children who they see for pediatric health care.
    • It may seem like a no-brainer to ask your friends/family who they use for their pediatricians, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this important resource! Most people tend to be friendly with individuals who share their values, and thus tend to seek similar qualities in their healthcare providers.
    • Talk to your friends and family members about what they looked for in their pediatricians, how they heard about them, and what their experience has been like so far with their children.
    • Don’t forget to pick your friend’s/family’s brains regarding things that they dislike about their pediatricians or the practices as well. Often these conversations can be enlightening!
  2. Think about the things that are important to you and your partner when it comes to pediatric care. Are you more aggressive in treatment and management? Or do you tend to prefer to watch-and-wait (when appropriate). Do you tend to be more nervous or anxious and need someone to be available to answer many questions day and night? Or are you really laid back in how you deal with new challenges? Do you have any feelings about vaccination? Medications? Complementary or alternative treatments? Are you considering homebirth? Thoughts on breastfeeding?
    • These types of questions can really aid in narrowing in on your family’s healthcare philosophy and values, and help you to formulate a type of clinician that will fit best with your family.
    • Try writing some of your biggest questions or concerns down.
    • For families that have concerns about vaccinations, treatments, or considering homebirth, these are important things to discuss with potential caregivers. Gleaning their reactions and willingness to discuss these choices can aid in working towards finding a good fit.
  3. What type of practice are you looking for in terms of its size?
    • Small practices tend to have anywhere from 1-4 physicians with some accompanying nurse practitioners. These practices may have somewhat more limited hours (like few later nights or weekend appointments), but tend to offer some more personalized medicine. It may be easier to see your primary physician, and to get a quick call-back from him/her when compared to a larger office. Smaller practices tend to have a more “family” feel, which is comforting for many families.
    • Large practices can have anywhere from 5-15 (or more) physicians and additional nurse practitioners. These practices may have the ability to offer in-house lactation consultants, labs, and even pharmacies. The downside to larger practices is often a less personal feel. It may be more difficult to see or speak with your particular chosen pediatrician, and you may have to wait on-hold longer when placing calls with questions or for appointments. The upside is that many of these large practices offer a wide range of appointment times, and may have more available on-site resources. Larger practices can often host parenting classes, which can be a wonderful bonus.
    • Evaluating whether you prefer the smaller feel, or whether having some of the conveniences that come with a larger practice are important ways to determine what practice will be a the right fit for your family.
  4. Meet with your potential care providers. This is an essential part of picking your pediatrician. All pediatric healthcare providers can bill for an “informational visit”. That means that you can schedule an appointment with as many potential providers as you wish, and you will be guaranteed 15-20 minutes of their undivided attention to pick their brains and get to know them on a more personal level.
    • Bring your list of questions/concerns (using the guidelines in point #2). Ask them all of your questions and don’t hold back! This is where you really get to see their reactions to things in person and truly get a feel for how they plan to handle anything that comes up.
    • Don’t be shy! These “meet-and-greets” are made for getting to know one another. Don’t be embarrassed by too many questions or any content. Most healthcare providers have been asked whatever you are thinking. Get to the meat of your values and theirs!
    • Ask about the practice, their goals, ideals, values, potential classes offered, resources, thoughts on rotating through providers or primary care point persons, hours, etc. Also, ask about rounding in the hospital (if you plan on a hospital birth). It’s nice to know if someone from the practice will be seeing you in the hospital right after your baby is born.
  5. If it’s not working, find someone else! Even if you went through these steps to find your pediatrician, provider relationships are like many others, and sometimes end up not working out as planned. If you ever feel as if your needs are not being met, you feel uncomfortable about the advice given, or you are nervous about sharing information with your pediatric healthcare provider, think about looking elsewhere. Your pediatrician is meant to be on your team, working with your family to optimize your child’s health and your family dynamic.

Although this process may seem daunting at the outset, don’t delay. I generally suggest starting to search for your pediatrician somewhere around 20-22 weeks gestation, and scheduling your prenatal informational visit sometime around the beginning of your third trimester. It’s also a good idea to meet with around three or more pediatric healthcare providers before making your final decision. Gaining perspective is easier with more to compare.

Don’t forget to enjoy this part of the parenting process! Going about how to select your family’s pediatrician is an important and exciting phase in the transition to life as a parent. Especially during the first year of your baby’s life you will be spending a fair amount of time visiting your pediatric office. It’s important to have a warm, helpful community to begin your child’s healthcare, and to have great healthcare support for your parenting!

Get Ready! Look at the How to Find a Pediatrician or Family Doctor Planning Guide.

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