Whether you’re expecting a baby, new to town or unhappy with your previous provider, finding a pediatrician for your child is likely one of the items high on your to-do list. Having a pediatrician you see regularly not only helps you track your child’s developmental milestones, it’s essential to be established with a practice so that you have a provider familiar with your child’s history when health concerns arise.
With so many pediatric options available, beginning the search can be daunting. There are medical doctors, osteopathic doctors and nurse practitioners; pediatric-specific practices and family practices; providers focusing on traditional healthcare and those with more holistic approaches. As you begin to sift through your options, here are some questions to consider.
Are They Recommended?
Asking pediatrician recommendations from friends or family members who share your health values is a great first step to focus your search. With a few names in hand, you can do further research to see if any of the recommendations are a good fit for your family. First, check out the provider’s website for basic information and then schedule a consultation interview for a more intimate look at the practice, keeping in mind that even a provider who comes highly recommended by someone you trust doesn’t necessarily make them the right one for your family.
Where are They Located?
“It may seem simple, but it will be helpful when your child is sick to know [the office] is easy to access,” says Kerry Brown, senior parenting specialist from Parent Connext, a parental support program at Beech Acres Parent Center in Cincinnati. Think through the times of day you’re likely to be visiting the pediatrician and where you’ll be during that time, whether that’s at work, home, or your child’s school or daycare facility.
Do They Meet Basic Requirements?
Before diving into any further research, make sure the provider you’re considering meets basic standards of care. There are several things Brown recommends you look into. First, ensure they are board-certified in pediatrics and that they take your insurance. You may also consider if their office hours and average length of office visits work well with your family members’ schedules. Finally, ask if the provider has any plans to change practices or retire before you become established. “You never know what the future holds, but it doesn’t hurt to ask,” Brown says.
What’s Their Communication Style?
Learning about how both the office and the doctor will communicate with you will give you a sense of the office culture. Are the staff, from the receptionists to the nurses to the provider, friendly and do they provide clear information? If you have a medical question, are you able to talk directly to a doctor or nurse? How are after-hours concerns handled? Does the office use a portal system for communicating appointments, billing and test results, and if not, how do they share that information? While these things might not necessarily be deal breakers, it’s good to know what to expect communication-wise and if it fits your preferences.
What Is the Office Like?
During a consultation, get a sense of how the office itself feels. “Do they separate sick kids from health visits in the waiting area? Is it an inviting atmosphere for kids?” Brown asks. Ultimately, you want a place where you and your children feel welcome and at ease.
Do They Share Your Healthcare Values?
Prior to choosing a pediatrician, Brown and the Parent Connext team recommend that parents intentionally sit down to identify their family’s values, including their point of view on healthcare, helping give you a better sense if a provider aligns with those values. During a consultation, you may ask them about their views on things like breastfeeding, circumcision, medication use, potty training and sleep, Brown says. You may want to know if they have knowledge on any special medical concerns that affect your child. Overall, get a sense of if they listen to you and if their bedside manner resonates with you, Brown says.
“Listen to your gut — if the provider isn’t really listening to your concerns or questions or you just don’t feel like it’s a good fit, trust that intuition,” Brown says. “This person will likely be caring for your child for at least 18 years, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit and that you feel comfortable not only with them, but with other staff, as well.”
It may take some time to find a pediatrician that is right for your family, and that’s OK. Keep the conversation open with your pediatrician by asking good questions, voicing any concerns you have as they arise, and advocating for your child at all times. Remember, if you are unhappy with your provider for any reason, you’re not stuck with them forever. You always have the opportunity to move on to a practice that better suits your and your family’s needs.