Selecting the right pediatrician for your child is one of the most important things a parent does. Making sure the pediatrician matches well with you and your child’s needs is imperative. A newborn sees the pediatrician around 5-6 times during their first year for checkups. It’s a smart idea to start looking for pediatricians in your area before giving birth so there is less worry once your child is born. Every parent wants their child to receive the best care; after all, this could be the doctor your child will be with for a very long time. Here are a few tips, tricks, and questions to ask to make sure your child will be in the right healing hands.
1. Research Doctors
One of the best references doctors rely on is word of mouth. Ask your family, friends, neighbors, even Facebook friends for recommendations on who they like (and/or don’t like) for a pediatrician. Another great resource is healthgrades.com where you can search for local pediatricians and see patient reviews right away. Compile a list of 3-6 pediatricians that you like and want to look more into. Look into how far away the office is and make sure you are comfortable driving that distance with a potential sick child in the car.
2. Experience and Credentials
Pediatricians specialize in the care of children of all ages, from 0-18 typically. Pediatricians completed a three-year pediatric residency program after they graduated from medical school. It is important to take into account how long the pediatrician has been in practice since their residency. Some choose to work in a more private practice office setting, and some in a larger group setting such as urgent care, hospitals, or emergency departments. A pediatrician’s knowledge and decision making can broaden and be different from working in these different environments.
So what do all the credentials mean exactly?
Board Certified: Many pediatricians become Board Certified, meaning after the three-year pediatric residency they additionally passed series of rigorous exams. Pediatricians have to take these exams routinely to remain Board Certified.
AAP Member: AAP stands for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which sets high standards and guidelines for pediatric care.
FAAP Designation: FAAP stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Only AAP Members can qualify for FAAP. FAAP members maintain in good standing in the AAP and are board certified; these members make an ongoing commitment to the lifelong learning and advocacy of children.
3. Meet the Doctors Face-to-Face
Many pediatricians offer free “get-to-know-you” visits that allow you to meet with the pediatrician and ask questions to see their style of care. This is also a good time to get to know the pediatrician and their personality. It is important that you and your child feel comfortable and confident in your pediatrician. By meeting different pediatricians, it is a great way to see if you’ll “click” with them or not.
Some Questions to Ask:
- Why did you want to be a pediatrician? It is important to get the pediatrician to talk about what made them get into pediatrics and what is keeping them there. Hopefully, the doctor seems genuine and passionate when talking about their job.
- Do you have any children? Some people may want a pediatrician that is a parent as well; keep in mind, parenthood doesn’t always make a great pediatrician, but it doesn’t hurt either. What is important about their answer is how they understand how strongly you care about your child. It is also a great way to get to know someone that could potentially be in you and your child’s life for a long time.
- How long have you been working here? It’s important to know what support system the doctor has behind them and to talk about how much experience and credibility they have. It is also great to see if they are passionate about the company they are working for or not.
- What are your views/opinions on…? Everyone has their own opinion about children’s health and it’s important that you find a doctor that has similar views to yours. Ask them specific questions about their opinions on breastfeeding, antibiotics, vaccines, etc. These questions are extremely important because the pediatrician’s opinions could influence your child’s care. It is okay to bring up difficult topics and question why they think a particular way. This could be a great insight into how your doctor thinks and how they would handle a situation. Do not be afraid to ask the pediatrician questions, it is important that you leave feeling that you have all your questions answered and have a good understanding on how the pediatrician views topics that are important to you.
4. See how your child interacts with them
Pediatricians get into this specialty because they love kids, so make sure your pediatrician is interacting with your newborn and bonding to them on their first few newborn visits. Make sure your child is a good fit with the pedestrian, just because you might like the pediatrician before your child’s birth, you might realize it’s not the best fit afterward. The most important thing is that you and your child feel confident and comfortable in your pediatrician’s care.