Choosing the right pediatrician is one of those things every parent needs to do. Use these 8 steps to help you make the right decision.
Investing in your child’s health early on will provide them with long-term benefits for the rest of their lives.
With a good fit, your child will be with the same pediatrician from those very first newborn days all the way through adult discharge when they turn 18.
18 years is a long time.
Spending those years with a pediatrician your family trusts will offer the best experience for everyone involved.
8 Steps to Help You Choose the Right Pediatrician
1. If This Is Your First Child, Start Early
During pregnancy and birth, there are many things that happen that are completely out of our control.
Choosing a pediatrician is not one of those. You can control this.
Anything that can be completed and taken care of prior to baby’s arrival is one less thing on your plate come delivery day.
Start your search in the later part of the second or early third trimester to give yourself enough time.
2. Get to Know Your Personal Values
This is by far the most important item on this list.
Finding a pediatrician who’s approach to treating patients blends well with your philosophy on parenting, health and wellness cannot be understated.
For my natural minded mamas, look for a pediatrician that is open to holistic and alternative treatment methods rather than one who is very straightforward with medical guidelines.
Example: You may be reluctant to bring up important issues with sleep, breastfeeding, or night time events if you cosleep and know that your pediatrician is dead set against it.
Withholding information at a wellness check up is a disservice to your child, yourself, and the pediatrician.
You’re more likely to trust, tell all of the details, and follow professional advice when you truly believe in your heart that it’s the right thing.
3. Get the List of In-Network Providers from Your Insurance
If you have standard health insurance instead of a shared cost plan, give the phone number on the back of your insurance card a call.
Ask them for a list of local pediatric providers that they participate with and start your search there.
Nothing is more defeating than spending hours researching doctors only to find out that the one you really loved is not an option due to cost.
4. Read Through Reviews and References
We’re lucky to live in an age where websites like Health Grades and Google Reviews exist.
What used to be word of mouth referral systems have now expanded to give everyone the same level of access at the click of a button.
Become an internet investigator.
Read the reviews on Google, Facebook, and Health Grades.
Read alllllll of the reviews, especially the bad ones.
Reviews that mention length of time the doctor spent with their child, how thoroughly they answered parent questions, level of patience with uncooperative toddlers, unhurried atmosphere – those are important.
Reviews about snotty secretaries or empty paper towel dispensers carry much less weight than a review about a doctor being open minded to a parent’s wish for alternative treatment schedules.
A word of caution:
Nobody is actually going to openly admit their pediatrician sucks or that they have to wait 45 minutes every single time they arrive for an appointment.
Despite this, most will instead offer praise that “they’re literally the best doctor ever and everything is sanitized and spotless” to avoid feeling like they failed their child.
Take friend and neighbor recommendations with a grain of salt until you have done some research on your own.
5. Narrow It Down to 4 Pediatricians and Make Interview Appointments
Once you have a solid list of 4 pediatricians you’re interested in meeting, you’ll want to call the offices and make appointments for in person interviews.
Interviews with a doctor are free and generally last about 5 minutes.
It is very much so an informal “meet and greet” style interaction meant to acquire first impressions, personality traits, overall friendliness, and take a look around the office.
If you or your child has special needs or topics that must be discussed, ask to make an appointment for a longer visit.
This is greatly appreciated and allows the doctor to spend adequate time with you without the pressure of keeping existing patients waiting outside.
6. Prepare A List of Questions
While 5 minutes is short, it is enough time.
It is common practice and expected that you come with a few questions for the doctor regarding their approach to medicine, practice philosophy, and hospital affiliations.
Many questions can also be answered by office staff at the reception desk or nurse’s station.
7. Consider Bringing Your Spouse and Any Trusted Advisors
This can go either way so I’m going to be brutally honest to spare you the stress and aggravation.
Some tag alongs can be an unwanted peanut gallery while others can offer excellent insight.
Bring someone along who understands your philosophy on parenting and health.
If you’re into natural health and your mother thinks midwives practice witchcraft, she may not be the best person to help you choose the right pediatrician for your family.
Limit stress in the areas that you can control.
If there is someone who insists on coming that you’d rather not have accompany you, blame it on the pandemic.
“Office only allows one guest. It’s me. I’m that one guest. Sorry.“
8. Observe the Office Staff and Work Flow
While you’re at the office, take mental notes on how the office functions during a regular work day.
Does everyone seem to be calm and know what they’re doing?
Are things chaotic and confusing?
Is it a quiet atmosphere or does it appear tense?
How many exam rooms and restrooms are there?
Does the office have separate waiting rooms for sick and well children?
Side note: This set up doesn’t work and is outdated. Best practice is to have sick children wait in the car until an exam room is available. They are then ushered directly into the exam room preferably using a separate entrance. General waiting areas are best reserved for healthy children.
How long do parents wait to speak with the receptionist?
Observe the overall cleanliness of the office, the type of clientele, staff interactions, and atmosphere.
Take note of how all of this makes you feel.
Doctor visits can often be a source of stress for a child that doesn’t feel well or is nervous about an upcoming check up. Children are very receptive and tend to feed off of the energy around them.
If you feel tense, anxious or uncomfortable in some way, it may not be a good fit.
Choosing the Right Pediatrician for Your Family
Going through the process to choose the right pediatrician for your family is one of the most important decisions you will make as a new parent.
Take your time, take notes, and then take some time to think it over.
When you’re ready, call the office back to begin the paperwork to join the practice.
Depending on the provider and type of birth you have, your first visit should be completed 2 to 7 days after birth.