Experience Is the Best Teacher
Ultimately, it's not until you've had a few appointments or dealt with an emergency that you learn what the doctor is made of. "Sometimes it works out," says Dr. Shubin, "sometimes it doesn't."
Debby Clarke of Colorado Springs left a practice because she felt the doctor used scare tactics. "When I expressed hesitance at giving my 18-month-old a steroid for her croupy cough," recalls Clarke, "the doctor said in a snippy voice, 'Well, fine, don't fill the prescription. If at two in the morning the baby is coughing like a seal again, you can just send your husband out to an all-night pharmacy.'"
For most people, knowing whether or not they've found a good match is a gut reaction. Papera liked her pediatrician from day one because she had a great bedside manner. "She seemed as excited about our daughter's milestones as we were," Papera says.
Marguerite Lamb of Yardley, Pennsylvania, likes that her pediatrician listens carefully to her concerns. She particularly appreciated how she handled questions about mercury in vaccines. "She did her best to answer me in the office, but what really impressed me was that she did some research and then called me later at home to follow up," Lamb says.
Lamb also loves that all the doctors in the practice never keep her waiting longer than 10 minutes. "They respect my time and that's important," she says. Keep in mind, though, that for an in-demand pediatrician you may have to put up with a considerable wait. Whether that's a make-or-break issue is up to you.
You can't expect everything to be perfect, but if you believe that a doctor is rushing through your child's checkup, ignoring your concerns or observations, or if your child truly dreads seeing him, you'd probably do well to move on. Your pediatrician should treat you like a partner in your child's healthcare and together you'll watch your little baby grow up.
Aviva Patz is a writer in Montclair, New Jersey.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.