4 Factors To Consider When Choosing Your Pediatrician
Parents of newborns have many questions: Do I give my baby formula or breast milk? Do I feed them jarred or natural baby food? When do I switch from breastfeeding to solids? How will I know if my child is ready for solids? Does my diet affect my unborn baby? How much time do I take off work for maternity leave?
You’re not sure of the decisions you need to make. You know that you need to consult a pediatrician, but even that seems like a daunting task because there are so many in your area.
In this article, we’ll point out useful tips and factors to assist you in making the right choice.
Which doctor do you choose?
During the first year of your child’s life, you’re going to make regular visits, you’ll make as many as 16 visits during the first year, especially if you’re a new parent.
Experts recommend beginning your search for a pediatrician when you’re 28 - 34 weeks into your pregnancy; this provides you with sufficient time to do your research and you’ll likely have a better idea of what you want.
How to choose your child’s first doctor
1. Your community
In the video above, physician Aaron Traeger provides some insight on where to begin, recommending that you start with your community and people you know. He also pointed out that good pediatricians are in abundance. Why? Because many doctors want to be pediatricians, they deal with kids because that’s what they want to do not because that’s what they got stuck doing! Ask friends and family who they use.
This Pediatric Associates video features a mom who said “I have a very good friend, she has four kids… I met her pediatrician and I’ve been so happy ever since.”
If you’re new to an area and you don’t know anyone, Dr. Traeger advises parents to visit or call the pediatrician center in your local hospital and ask the nurses who they recommend and who they consult. If you belong to a local church, members of the congregation will definitely have someone they can recommend.
2. Prenatal or Meet and Greet Visits
This momtv.com video covers choosing a pediatrician. It features DR. Rebekah Soto who recommends that parents first take advantage of complimentary prenatal visits at a clinic they’re considering.
Take a look at the facility; meet the staff, nurses and pediatricians, who may take care of your child in the future. The prenatal visit is a good opportunity to gauge your comfort level. This is a great time to begin asking questions about hours and emergency contacts.
When you screen the doctor and facility, it also shows the potential physician that you’re trying to work with them. Pediatrician, Dr. Claire McCarthy highlighted the point that parents should take an active role in doctor appointments. Parents should be prepared, be honest about their child’s habits, and speak up when instructions are unclear or the doctor screws up. Doctor visits and the ongoing relationship will be best when parents and doctors understand that they need to work together.
In the talk show interview above, Dr. Abeba Berhane also recommends a prenatal visit to meet staff and doctors and parents. She says write questions down and actually bring them during the prenatal visit. You don’t want to insult the doctor, but a list of questions shows the physician that you’re prepared — more than likely, they’re accustomed to parents asking questions.
During the interview with Pediatric Associates, mentioned in point #1, Dr. Rasciel Socarras was asked about the importance of the first visit, he replied,
“That first interview is priceless. You’re going to come in and see how the office works, you’re going to see the staff… the most important thing, you’re going to see is the pediatrician. See what comfort level you have with that doctor. It’s also nice to check their experience before you come in.”
Also, inquire about their credentials.
Look for these specific classifications
Board Certified - This ensures that they’ve completed medical school, residency, and necessary exams to become a pediatrician.
AAP Member - Being a member of the Ameican Academy of Pediatrics demonstrates the doctor follows the organization’s guidelines and standards.
FAAP - This stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP website points out that these physicians are specialist when it comes to children.
Now that you’ve found a potential pediatrician, what questions or concerns should you inquire about when screening them?
Let’s take a look at some topics or areas of concern.
Insurance - This is paramount, but inquire about payment and filing claims. Also, consider the Affordable Care Act and how it affects your plan.
Is the physician a parent? - Keep in mind, that although being a parent may help, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pediatrician doesn’t have experience and that they don’t love children as pointed out by one childless pediatrician
“Kids are the reason I pursued medicine and have fueled my persistence on this journey to completing my residency training, and being a non-parent does not alter my commitment to doing what is absolutely best and safest for my patients and their families. My hope then would be that my families would not focus on whether I am also a parent, but instead on the level of care I provide for their children; a level of care that I trust another pediatrician would one day give to my future child.” - Dr. Allison R. Roland, Chief Resident in Pediatrics at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
Credentials and Experience - Inquire about the number of years they’ve practiced and as we mentioned, their credentials. Find out about any awards, physician groups or specializations they may have.
Hours - What are the office hours? What are the emergency escalation procedures? Is there an on-call number? Does the doctor operate on weekends? What happens if you’re away? Is there another pediatrician in the clinic?
Affiliations - What hospitals is the doctor affiliated with?
Breast Feeding? Formula? Circumcision? - Where does the doctor stand on these issues and why?
Vaccines - A very sensitive issue for some families. If you’re against vaccines, will the doctor still treat your child? Some physicians will see children who aren’t vaccinated, but will regularly encourage parents to consider vaccinations as the relationship develops.
Alternative Medicine - CAM (Complementary and alternative medicine) like herbal remedies, massage, and aromatherapy are growing in popularity. In children, the use of CAM is becoming popular for treating asthma and cancer. In fact, conventional medicine and alternative medicine treatments may be offered together — this is known as integrative medicine.
In a study of 926 Canadian parents, 50% said their children had used CAM at the same time they were taking conventional drugs yet many parents weren’t sharing this informing their pediatricians. Be sure to discuss any alternatives medicine your child may be taking to prevent the possibility of dangerous interactions with conventional medicine and to be sure it will not be harmful to your child.
A doctor who supports alternative medicine might be a good indication that the physician keeps up to date on medical practices. In the episode of The Couch above, Dr. Vivian Denise, holistic pediatrician, recommended that parents consider alternative medicine for preventative therapy or as a first-line of defense. Such as using fish oil and probiotics instead of a laxative for constipation.
Babycenter.com has a great PDF questionnaire document that you can download and print for your pediatrician consultation.
You’ve asked the doctor a ton of questions. Do you feel absolutely confident in the physician? Make sure, more than likely, you’ll stick with the same pediatrician until your child reaches adulthood. In addition, you’ll have to share your medical history and be completely honest about your behavior before and after your baby has been born. The pediatrician may need to know private information about you as well!
To find a pediatrician, you’ll have to do your homework. Hopefully, this article provides you with a good start!
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