Choosing a pediatrician is one of the many decisions you will have to make in the months before you welcome your new baby. In the first year of life, your baby will see the doctor at least 8 times for routine visits. Add that on to any visits for illness and you get the idea of how familiar you will be with your child’s doctor’s office! Here’s a few pointers to help with selecting your baby’s doctor.
1. Ask friends that have young children
Chances are that your close friends have similar priorities and values to you. Ask them what things they like and what they would change about their practice if they could. How easy it is to talk to someone on the phone to schedule an appointment or to have a question answered. Ask about waiting times. Does the physician listen to the parents’ concerns and treat them in a patient and respectful manner?
2. Location and Access
You will want to choose a practice location that is conveniently located – close to home, work, or child care. You will need convenient parking options. Does the practice offer walk-in hours for ill visits or do they keep appointment slots available for same day ill visits. Who answers your calls when the office is closed? Can you leave your doctor a voicemail or send an email? Is there a charge for after-hours phone calls? These things make communicating with your doctor easier.
3. Type of Practice
There are a few different types of practices and each have their pros and cons. There are large practices, small practices and even practices that make house calls. The practices with more physicians are usually able to offer longer hours during the week and may offer appointments on the weekend as well. However, you may not see “your” doctor for ill visits. Conversely, the smaller practices may feel more personal but may not offer as many extended hours.
4. Hospital Affiliations
Which hospital(s) is the practice affiliated with? Will they see your baby in the hospital after you deliver? Where do they admit their patients? This may be important if you need to see a subspecialist or your child needs to be hospitalized.
Personality and parenting style plays a role as well. Some parents want a definitive step-wise plan laid out while others want to be given the various options to consider. You may not know which group you belong to until your baby is born but it’s important to know that the practice has practitioners of both variety. You may want to ask about relationships with lactation consultants if you are going to breast feed and the practice’s policy regarding routine childhood immunizations.
Every pediatrician should offer a complimentary prenatal visit during which time you will get to see the office, interact with the front desk staff and nurses, and meet with at least 1 of the physicians. To get the most out of this visit, do your homework ahead of time and read over their website. Look at their list of physicians and if one stands out to you, try to schedule your prenatal appointment with him or her. Have a list of questions ready.
Wishing your family a happy and healthy holiday season,
Sapna Mukherjee, MD
Premium Care Pediatrics