Last week, Dr. Alessia wrote a fantastic blog entry on why a child should have a pediatrician, and this week I’ll give you some tips on how to choose the RIGHT pediatrician for your family. Notice I wrote “family” and not “child.” This is because, in an ideal setting, a child, his/her parents, and the pediatrician should work as a team in making healthcare decisions.
As Dr. Alessia pointed out in her last blog, all general pediatricians go through similar training: four years college, four years medical school and three years in a pediatric training residency. We are all taught to practice evidence-based medicine (that means keeping up-to-date on the most recent research and scientific evidence, and using this information to better care for our patients). We also follow recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, who is a large group of people way smarter than me who look at all the scientific research happening in the world of pediatric medicine, and they summarize it in the form of recommendations for us so that we can keep our patients as healthy as possible! So, from an educational background perspective, we are not that different from one another. However, we each come with different personalities and different viewpoints, and this is what makes each one of us unique.
Most pediatricians offer “meet and greet” appointments (most offices do not charge for this visit), where you can meet a physician face-to-face, spend 15 to 20 minutes talking, asking questions, and getting a feel for that physician’s personality. I highly recommend doing this! It’s a great way to see first hand if the pediatrician is the right fit for your family.
Here are four things you should keep in mind when choosing a pediatrician:
1. Seeing the pediatrician should be a joy, not a dread! Making sure that you feel comfortable with your pediatrician is very important, especially in those first few months after your baby is born. There are a lot of visits and a lot of questions (some can be a bit personal), and you want to make sure you can talk openly and with ease at each visit. Feeling comfortable with your pediatrician really helps keep lines of communication open, and this is important in making healthcare decisions for your child.
2. You want to make sure you and your pediatrician are on the same page on immunizations and medications. Immunizations are a hot topic and many people have mixed feelings about giving their children immunizations. I encourage you to ask your pediatrician lots of questions so that we may answer them and help guide you in making the right decision for you and your child. Most of the visits during the first two years involve giving immunizations and immunizations are the center of pediatric preventative care, so it is something that will be discussed over and over again. Keep in mind that some pediatricians will not even accept patients who are not immunized.
3. Convenience is another factor to take into consideration. With the frequent visits to the pediatrician in the first 2 years of life, choosing a physician whose office is easily accessible is vital. Accessibility means being fairly close to home, and also it means convenient office hours that fit your schedule. Many offices will have weekend/evening hours, so if these hours work best for you, make sure your pediatrician’s office can accommodate that.
4. Even though infants do not seem to mind whether a male doctor or female doctor is examining them, older children might! Some boys feel more comfortable with a male physician, and on the same token, some girls may feel more comfortable with a female physician. This becomes especially important when the child is reaching those pubertal/teenage years. A regular checkup at that point starts to include some personal questions, many of which we ask with the parents out of the room. If your child is more at ease with his/her physician, he/she is more likely to be more open and ask questions more freely.
I hope this takes some of the “eenie-meenie-miney-mo” out of choosing a pediatrician for your family. Any pediatrician’s office should be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. We all want to make sure that you have the best experience possible when you come see us, and we want to be able to provide the best care to your children!