Choosing a Pediatrician
Ideally, the best time to choose a doctor for your baby is before the baby is born. In making your selection, you'll need to consider a combination of factors.
One of the first considerations is whether your baby will see a pediatrician or a family practice physician. Both pediatricians and family physicians go through four years of medical school. Pediatricians go through an additional three years of training in the treatment of people from birth to age 21 and must pass an exam from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Family practitioners go through an additional three years of training in the care of people of all ages and must pass an exam from the American Academy of Family Physicians. There is no right or wrong choice. Family doctors have the advantage of being able to treat the whole family. Pediatricians may have greater expertise in treating children.
Once you've decided which type of doctor you prefer, you will want to look at individual doctors' methods and manners. Start by knowing what you're looking for in your baby's doctor. Do you want someone with a more familiar, casual manner or a very professional and more formal manner? Seek referrals from friends and relatives in your area. Ask your obstetrical care provider to recommend a pediatrician or family physician.
Look at practical considerations. Is the doctor affiliated with your health plan and the hospital you plan to use? Is the doctor's office located close to your home? Consider the doctor's office hours and how they fit or conflict with your work or household schedule. Most importantly, meet and talk with the doctor to see whether you feel comfortable with him or her.
During your meeting, you should ask lots of questions, such as:
- What are the doctor's regular office hours? How are calls and emergencies handled after regular office hours?
- Who covers for the doctor when he/she is sick or on vacation?
- Who will respond to questions over the phone during regular office hours?
- Is the office neat and clean? Will your child perceive it to be a warm, friendly place?
- Is the office staff friendly and courteous?
- How long do patients usually have to wait to see the doctor?