Need to find a GREAT pediatrician? Here are a few things I learned from 8 years and 5 children!
1. Make appointments to talk to the pediatricians in your area. If they won't give you an appointment before you bring your baby/child to their office, they usually aren't very concerned about your (or your child's) comfort or concerns. When you call, let the receptionist know that you are looking for a pediatrician and would like to schedule a consultation with the doctor. Some areas have a high number of pediatricians, so you may want to ask around to get some recommendations before you try to tackle the entire pediatrics section of your local phone book...lol. If you don't know many people with children that you could ask for recommendations, some places you can ask about pediatricians are: Your OB's office - ask the doctor and nurses who they would take their kids to; the local hospitals - ask the nurses in the pediatric/maternity areas who they would recommend; go to a local park and talk to the parents there and tell them you are looking for a pediatrician for your baby/child - most parents will be more than willing to help you out; with older children, you can ask the school/pre-school nurse for recommendations.
NOTE: Some insurances will not cover consultations like this, so make sure you know your insurance limitations. In my experience, most doctors will charge between $10-$40 for a consultation without insurance, but trust me - the money will be well spent!
2. Pick a pediatrician you are comfortable with. Trust me, after talking for a few minutes, you'll generally know whether you like them or not. I would recommend that you watch out for doctors that talk down to you or at you rather than to you. My experience has been that the second type of doctors are rarely willing to listen if I have a concern (ex. I say that my child has "Symptom A" and "Symptom A is not normal for my child. Those doctors tend to brush me off by saying "Symptom A" is common in other children rather than check to make sure that nothing is wrong with my child). They seem to have the attitude that I couldn't possibly know because they are the doctor, not me. My current pediatrician (and the other doctors in his practice) have the philosophy of "I may be the doctor, but you are the parent. I may know medicine, but YOU know your child." Try to look for that kind of doctor!
3. Watch the kids in the waiting room. Do they seem comfortable (other than sickness) or do they seem apprehensive? Also watch the nursing/reception staff work. Do they seem to have it under control or do they seem hurried and frazzled? If the staff seems to be working like - ummm...for lack of a better way to put it, I'll borrow an expression from my cousin... - like the Energizer Bunny(R) on speed, it is a good bet that the doctor has too many patients for the size of the practice. This is a red flag that the doctor may not be able to provide the time you and your baby/child will need on a regular basis.
4. Ask the pediatrician about their standpoint on any issues that concern you. Many people today worry about vaccines and their possible side effects. None of my kids ever had problems other than soreness and mild fever (Baby Tylenol knocks it right down though). Just keep in mind that certain vaccines are REQUIRED for school and/or daycare. Also talk to the doctor about any concerns you may have involving family history of diseases and/or birth defects and how they handle it. If you already have a child that has special needs, make sure to address this at the consultation.
5. Walk-in clinics or appointment based offices? This is a choice you have to make. I take my children to a walk-in clinic so I can avoid Urgent Care or ER co-pays if they get sick and there are no open appointments. The down side is that on some days (especially Mondays) there can be a long wait.
6. Make sure the office has a well child waiting room separate from the regular waiting room. You don't want to take your healthy baby in for a 2 month check-up and leave with a sick baby because you were in the same waiting room as the sick children. Also, try to find an office that immediately isolates children suspected of having illnesses that spread very quickly and easily (ex. Pink Eye, Chicken Pox, Measles, ANY form of rash, etc.)
7. Ask the pediatrician if they speak to the child or the parent about the reason for the visit. My pediatrician asks my 4, 5, & 8 year old what is wrong, he doesn't ask me except for my 2 year old and baby. The kids know what feels wrong better than I do - they are the ones feeling bad.
8. Don't be afraid to speak up! This is your child's health. If you have a question or concern talk to the doctor. DO NOT let them brush you off. If you don't understand their answer or they try to hedge, keep asking until you are satisfied with the answer. If you - at ANY point - become uncomfortable with your pediatrician and talking to them doesn't put you at ease, change doctors. Trust your instincts!
NOTE: Some insurances will only let you change doctors at a certain time or within a certain time frame after you enroll (usually called "Open Enrollment" and it usually happens within the first 30 days after enrollment and once or twice a year thereafter). If you have to wait to switch, use that time to set up consultations and find another pediatrician, then switch when you can.
9. Check out blogs and community web sites in your area. See if anyone is saying anything about specific pediatricians. You can also try signing up for different parenting sites like Parents Connect to connect with other moms/dads in your area and build a support network.
That's about it. Like I said earlier, try to get consultations and go with whomever you feel most comfortable. I hope these tips help you find a pediatrician that you and your child will be able to stay with and be happy with for their entire childhood.
*REMEMBER* Your choice is not written in stone! If you figure out that you don't like the pediatrician you chose at first, go to someone else! Good Luck!!!