You’ve picked the perfect baby swing, car seat and crib. But what about a pediatrician? Choosing your pediatrician is an important task. You’re trusting this person with your child’s well-being.
If you’re pregnant, when should you pick your pediatrician? And how do you find the right doctor for your baby or child? Pediatrician Kimberly Giuliano, MD, explains three steps that will help you find that perfect pediatric partner.
Step 1: Ask people you trust
Get pediatricians’ names from friends, family members or co-workers who have kids — and whose opinions you respect. If you’re pregnant, your obstetrician may also have some recommendations.
“You and your friends likely have similar beliefs and preferences, so getting their input is helpful,” says Dr. Giuliano. “Get suggestions from several different people if you can.”
Remember that what makes a good pediatrician is different for everyone. Even your BFF may have different priorities than you do.
Step 2: Scan the pediatrician’s website
The internet is a great place to get basic information about pediatricians in your area. Many physicians have a practice website or are included on a health system website. Here, you can usually find out:
- The doctor’s medical background and training.
- How long they’ve been in practice.
- Their office hours.
- Languages they speak.
- Other providers they work with.
Of course, a website won’t tell you everything you need to know. That’s when you move on to the next step: a meeting.
Step 3: Meet the pediatricians you’re considering
Now it’s time to talk to the doctors. Narrow down your list to two or three pediatricians and set up a meeting with each one. Most pediatricians will schedule a virtual or in-person interview for low or no cost.
“When you talk with the doctor, you get a feel for their personality, their style and whether you click with them,” says Dr. Giuliano. “These are things you won’t get from a website or online reviews written by strangers.”
If you’re pregnant, when you pick a pediatrician is important. “Start calling doctors at the beginning of your third trimester if you can,” says Dr. Giuliano. “If you get too close to your due date, you might have a patient before you have a pediatrician.”
Before the meeting, jot down a list of questions for the doctor. Here are a few topics you may want to ask about:
Babies and children get sick. And new babies have lots of appointments even when they’re healthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends seven well-child visits in the first year alone.
Is the pediatrician’s office close to your home or your child’s day care? Are they always in one office, or do they have other locations? Do they have adequate parking nearby? These logistics matter when you’ve got a sick child on your hands or a jam-packed schedule.
Kids get sick at inconvenient times. If you have a question or medical concern at night or on the weekend, how will they help you? Will you talk with the doctor, a nurse or an on-call service? How easy is it to reach a person after hours?
Other providers at the office
Many pediatricians work with other providers, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants or other pediatricians. Find out whether you will see these other providers and how often.
“It’s not necessary to meet everyone on the staff,” says Dr. Giuliano. “But it’s good to know a little about the other providers, so you’re not surprised later.”
Your child’s unique needs
If you’re expecting a baby (or already have a child) with special healthcare needs, bring this up. Ask the pediatrician about their experience treating this condition. Do you agree with their philosophy on care for the condition? Do they have expertise in certain areas of medicine?
Topics that are important to you
Don’t shy away from pediatric “hot topics” that you want to discuss, like circumcision or breastfeeding. “You should feel comfortable talking openly with your pediatrician,” says Dr. Giuliano. “This is the key to a trusting and effective relationship.”
And don’t panic if the doctor doesn’t see eye to eye with you on everything. “It’s OK if doctors and parents have different viewpoints,” says Dr. Giuliano. “The pediatrician should present parents with facts and the scientific evidence behind their recommendations. The parent should express their beliefs and preferences. With a good relationship, a pediatrician and parent can agree upon a healthcare plan that works for both of them.”
If you have a preferred hospital, find out whether your pediatrician is affiliated with it. If they are, you might see your pediatrician in the hospital after your baby is born. They might also check in if your child needs other hospital visits.
But if they’re not affiliated with your hospital, don’t worry. “Many hospitals have pediatricians on staff who handle care while your baby or child is in the hospital,” explains Dr. Giuliano. “They communicate with your pediatrician so your doctor can pick up where the hospital left off.”
Costs can add up when you’ve got lots of visits, lab tests and other care. Check with your insurance company about which pediatricians are in your network — it can mean lower costs for you.
If a physician is board certified, you’ll know by looking at their credentials. Board-certified pediatricians may be a Fellow of the AAP (FAAP) or a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice (FAAFP).
A physician must pass an exam that demonstrates their knowledge of pediatric medicine to earn their FAAP or FAAFP. Most board-certified pediatricians continue ongoing education as well.
“Board certification shows parents that the pediatrician has achieved a standard of knowledge to maintain high-quality and up-to-date care,” says Dr. Giuliano. “It’s a good thing to look for, but it’s not the only thing.”
Gather info and go with your gut
Only you can decide which pediatrician is best for you and your child. After weighing all the issues that matter to you, choose the one that feels like the right fit.
“Finding someone you can connect with and trust are probably the biggest factors to consider when choosing your pediatrician,” says Dr. Giuliano. “A good relationship with your child’s doctor is essential — now and as they grow.”