Among the many things on your pregnancy to-do list, finding the right pediatrician is one of the most important items.
A pediatrician is a physician who is concerned primarily with the health and development of children. Aside from four years of medical school, pediatricians complete at least three years of intensive training that focuses on all aspects of medical care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
During the first year of your baby’s life, you will visit your pediatrician six times for well-visits alone, so you want someone who you can trust to give you solid advice and guidance as your child grows and changes from infancy to adolescence.
Pulling Together a List of Options
The first step in finding the right pediatrician is a little research. Ask trusted friends or family members for recommendations. But don’t stop at just getting a name, delve a little deeper and ask the following questions.
- Does their pediatrician show a genuine interest in the problems and needs of their child?
- Do they often feel rushed during an appointment?
- Does the doctor take time to listen to their concerns and answer questions?
You can also ask your OB/GYN for options or check out online tools. CarilionClinic.org offers users a “Find a Doc” tool that allows you to search by specialty and location. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a similar tool as well.
Once you have a list of recommendations, do some further research online to ensure that each physician fits the following criteria:
- Is he certified by the American Board of Pediatrics? This means that the physician has passed a specialized exam in pediatrics.
- How long has he been in practice?
- Did he go to a reputable medical school and complete a residency in pediatrics?
Check Out the Office Policies
Once you have spent some time online and narrowed down your list to a few promising candidates, it is time to call the practice. Explain that you are looking for a pediatrician for your child and ask the following questions:
- Is the pediatrician accepting new patients?
- Does the practice accept your insurance?
- Is the doctor part of a group practice?
- If so, ask about the background of the other doctors.
- Is the doctor affiliated with a hospital?
- What specialists are on staff at that hospital?
- Can you call and talk to your doctor or a nurse if you have questions?
- For questions that are not urgent, do they offer a way to communicate via email, such as MyChart?
- Does the practice offer same-day sick appointments?
- Is there a way to reach a doctor or nurse if your child is sick after hours?
- How are emergencies handled?
Other things to consider include:
- Is the office conveniently located?
- Do the hours fit with your schedule?
- Is parking easy and plentiful?
Time for a Visit
If you like what you hear, ask about arranging a phone interview or office visit to meet with the doctor. This is your opportunity to make sure you and the pediatrician are on the same page regarding a childcare philosophy, such as breastfeeding, immunizations, circumcision and any other parenting issues like attachment parenting or co-sleeping.
When you visit the office, take a moment to take in the atmosphere:
- Is waiting area clean and inviting?
- Is it decorated with kids in mind?
- Is the staff helpful and friendly?
And lastly, don’t forget to trust your gut. You know what is best for you and your future little one, so go with a pediatrician and practice that makes you feel comfortable and secure.
John E. Moore, M.D., is a pediatrician at Carilion Children's pediatric medicine practice in Daleville, Va. He has been with Carilion since 2002 and has been practicing medicine for 18 years. Check out Dr. Moore's bio to learn more.