Choosing a Pediatrician

Choosing your newborn's doctor is a major step, one you'll want to make before your baby is born.

What To Look For

Your child's health-care professional should be a pediatrician or a family practitioner who has received considerable training in the care of children. Make sure the doctor you choose is board-certified in pediatrics or family medicine.

The physician should also be licensed by the state in which she practices, and the license should be posted prominently in her office for your review. Also make sure the doctor is affiliated with a hospital near your home to avoid lengthy trips in case an emergency should arise.

Finding a Doctor

To find the right physician, ask your obstetrician/gynecologist or nurse-midwife for a referral. Friends, especially other parents in your neighborhood, are also good sources for referrals. If you've just moved to a new community, call the public affairs department at the nearest teaching (university-affiliated) hospital or a respected local hospital or medical center for a recommendation. If the public affairs department isn't able to recommend someone, ask to speak with a pediatric floor nurse. Someone in that position is likely to be aware of the best doctors in town.

You'll want not only medical expertise, but a feeling of partnership with this professional whom you trust to address your baby's needs as well as your own need for information, help, and reassurance. You'll want him to be someone you feel comfortable calling with even minor concerns.

Some parents interview pediatricians to get a feel for their style. During such an interview, ask the doctor how accessible she is, whether she's available to take calls during the day and evening, how quickly she gets back to parents, how reliable her answering service is, and whether she has weekend and evening office hours -- a must for parents who work outside the home. Pay attention to how well your doctor focuses on your needs, how well you feel your questions have been answered, and whether or not you feel rushed or your concerns are brushed aside.

Ask if your baby will see the doctor, a nurse-practitioner, or other service provider during routine visits. You'll want regular contact with a single party with whom you and your child can develop a relationship. If the doctor herself sees patients only for emergencies, you may want to look around since you will both be far more comfortable in an emergency situation with your baby's regular physician.

Find out if the physician and you share attitudes on such key child-rearing issues as breast-feeding, weaning and nutrition. Keep looking if you feel that you and a particular doctor aren't a good match.

Convenience is also an important factor in choosing your child's physician. You don't want to have half an hour's drive between your home and the doctor's office, especially when your baby is ill. You may also want to consider having a doctor in a group practice rather than someone who has a solo practice. Then, if the doctor is on vacation or ill, your child can see one of her partners, with whom you are more likely to be somewhat familiar.

07-01-2001

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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