Along with considering baby names and buying a crib, choosing the right doctor should be on your to-do list, too.
Your search for a pediatrician should begin well before your baby’s due date. Babies often come early and you’ll want to be sure you’ve found someone whose style and personality work with your own.
A good time to begin your search is about 3 months before your baby is expected. Ask people you trust for recommendations – your relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers as well as your doctor, obstetrician or nurse midwife.
Once you have some recommendations, it’s time to check them out more thoroughly. You can start by looking them up online and beginning the interview process.
Since the doctor will be the first to treat your baby, you want to be sure you’re comfortable with the doctor’s personality, office staff, location and environment. An interview is the best way to do this.
During the interview, find out how the practice works by asking:
- What are the office hours? Flexibility of the doctor’s schedule is an important factor, especially if you work outside the home.
- Is this a solo or group practice? If it’s a solo practice and your doctor isn’t available on weekends or evenings, what are the coverage arrangements? If it’s a group practice, ask about the qualifications of the other doctors in the office.
- Does a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) work in the office? How does the PNP(s) fit into the practice arrangement?
- Which hospital is your doctor affiliated with? Will your doctor come to the hospital when you deliver to examine the baby?
- How does the office handle calls during and after hours? Are special times set aside for parents to call in with questions or is there an open advice line during working hours? How are after-hours calls handled?
- Is email an option for communicating with your doctor? Does the practice use an electronic medical record that may make it easier to transfer your child’s health information, fill out forms, view test results and schedule appointments? Does the practice have its own website that provides helpful advice and access to reliable health information?
Making a question checklist will help you organize your thoughts and be thorough during the interview. Some pediatric offices offer group classes for expectant parents to learn about the practice and discuss newborn care, while others offer one-on-one interviews.
What the doctor’s office should be like
The interview is a great time to observe office procedures. Check out the reception area.
Is there a place where sick kids can be separated from those in for a well visit? Is the area clean and child-friendly? Is the staff polite and considerate to patients in the waiting area and to people on the phone?
The doctor’s personality
Another important aspect of the interview is getting a feel for the doctor’s personality. Does he or she see parents as partners in a child’s care? Is he or she willing to explain things carefully? Are the doctor’s age and gender important issues to you?
Good communication between a doctor and parent is essential to building a good relationship. Is the doctor a good listener who seems responsive to your concerns? Are you comfortable asking questions or do you feel intimidated?
You should also be sure that your parenting style matches your doctor’s in important issues. How does the doctor feel about circumcision? Breastfeeding? Use of antibiotics and other medications? Does the doctor focus on preventive care, including immunizations, child safety and nutrition?
Philosophical issues might not seem important before your baby is born but if you consider that this doctor may see your child for years to come, agreement on larger issues becomes more significant.
Although you may feel overwhelmed with preparing for your baby’s arrival, choosing the right pediatrician will help ease some of the anxiety all new parents experience.
© 2014. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Used under license.