Choosing a Pediatrician
For parents, choosing a pediatrician for your
child is one of many
items to take care of well before the delivery. In addition to this guide, the
American Academy of Pediatrics website is a good resource.
You should seek recommendations from your obstetrician, or your local
hospital may provide a physician referral service as a way to find names of
pediatricians who practice near where you live. Talk to friends and neighbors to
gain their suggestions as well. You will likely want to check with your medical
insurance company to obtain names of pediatricians to be certain they
participate in your insurance plan.
Pediatricians are graduates of four-year medical schools and participate in
three years of additional residency training in pediatrics. To practice as a
pediatrician, the physician also must pass a written examination conducted by
the American Board of Pediatrics. A pediatrician will have a broad range of
knowledge and skills necessary to treat all the medical conditions of childhood
from minor illnesses to serious diseases.
You will want to meet with several pediatricians face to face before you
select a doctor to care for your child. Most pediatricians offer a prenatal
interview for expectant parents, and it is a good way to learn about the
doctor’s philosophy and meet the office staff.
A few basic questions to keep in mind will serve as a guide for the
interview. The way the pediatrician answers your questions will help you make a
decision about which pediatrician fits well with your approach to childcare and
For example, you should inquire about the pediatrician’s educational
background and training:
- Is the physician board certified in pediatrics?
- Is the pediatrician a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics?
- With which hospital is the pediatrician affiliated?
- If your child needs to be hospitalized, will the pediatrician be able to
care for your child in the hospital?
- If your child needs specialty medical care, to whom does your pediatrician
- If there is a children’s hospital in your area, does your pediatrician
make referrals there and is he or she affiliated with it?
- You will also want to know if your pediatrician will visit your newborn in
the hospital after delivery. Pediatric coverage after regular office hours is
also an issue you will want to discuss with your pediatrician.
- Is your pediatrician part of a group that covers for each other or are
other groups involved?
- What happens on nights or weekends if your child becomes ill and needs to
see a doctor right away?
- Can you call the doctor at a regular time during the day if you have
questions? If a staff person answers these calls, you can ask what background
that person has or what protocols of information are available to that person.
You will want to ask about office visits, and immunization schedules for your
child and whether those schedules are consistent with American Academy of
Pediatrics guidelines. At the end of the interview you should have a sense of
whether the doctor’s background and communication style are a good fit for you.
It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions because as a new
parents, questions will crop up frequently.
You should feel as if the pediatrician is a partner with you in ensuring good
medical care for your child. Feeling confident in the decision you make about
selecting the right pediatrician is a good place to start in finding the person
who will be such an important healthcare resource for you and your child.