8 Important Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician

You've got a baby on the way—now's the time to find a doctor you can trust. Here's our guide to choosing the pediatrician that's right for you and your little one.

While you have plenty to think about during pregnancy or the adoption process already, the months leading up to your baby's birth are also an important time to start choosing who your family's pediatrician or primary care provider will be. When it comes to choosing who will be the go-to for your baby's medical care, you have a few different choices:

  • A pediatrician, a doctor (MD or DO) that has additional training in pediatric care
  • A family doctor, who again is an MD or DO, but has not specialized in pediatrics
  • A mid-level provider, such as a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, both of whom can provide specialty pediatric care or serve more as a general family provider

Even before your baby is born, you can meet with the medical professional you prefer to get a feel for how their office operates, their policies, and make sure the doctor or provider you choose is someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

To begin your search, get referrals from your obstetrician/gynecologist or nurse-midwife, other parents in the neighborhood, the public affairs department at the nearest hospital, a pediatric floor nurse at a local hospital or medical center, or by checking the pediatrician referral database at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

4 Questions to Ask About the Doctor

Once you have a few recommendations, check the provider or doctor's credentials. The American Board of Medical Specialties is a good source to find out the following information:

1. Is the pediatrician certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (AAP)?

This means the doctor passed a specialized exam in pediatrics.

2. Is the pediatrician a member of the AAP?

If so, the doctor will have an "FAAP" after their name. This means the doctor has met established standards for providing pediatric healthcare.

3. If you choose a family physician, are they certified by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM)?

Family doctors are trained to care for patients of all ages—including children—but they do not have specialized training in pediatrics.

4. Does the doctor have specialized training?

This is particularly important to know if you think your child will have special medical needs.

8 Questions to Ask the Doctor

When you've narrowed your choices down, you're ready to get specific questions answered. If possible, set up interviews—face-to-face meetings will give you the opportunity to get to know the doctor, staff and to ask about office policies. Here are a few suggestions for questions to ask.

1. How long have you been in practice?

If you don't have this information already, this would be the time to ask. And while you're on the subject, consider some of the pros and cons of a doctor that has a newer practice: they may have less experience, but on the other hand, they may also be willing to spend more time with you on visits, so go with what you feel most comfortable with here.

2. What is your stance on vaccinations?

Be sure to ask if your provider follows the recommended schedules for childhood vaccines and if you have any questions about a delayed vaccination schedule or any concerns about vaccines in general, now is a good time to address them.

3. Are you part of a group practice?

If you go with a doctor in a solo practice, find out who covers when they are away. If the doctor you choose is part of a group practice, ask about the background of the other doctors. Some practices have pediatric nurse practitioners or physician assistants. They are fully trained registered nurses with a Master's in specialized training. Physician assistants are not nurses. They have four-year college degrees and two years of physician assistant training.

4. How long does a typical check-up last?

Ideally, a check-up should last at least 20 minutes, but be sure to find out if the doctor allows for extra time in early visits when you probably will have the most questions!

5. How are emergencies handled?

Some offices accommodate same-day walk-in visits. Ask how after-hours emergencies and questions are handled. Some offices have online platforms where you can message providers and do things like request prescription refills or even schedule appointments.

6. Is there a call-in policy?

Some pediatricians have a specific call-in period each day. In some practices, a nurse answers routine questions. Find out how such phone calls are taken and if there is a charge.

7. Is telehealth available?

Since the pandemic, many offices offer more virtual services, so if that's an option that you would like access to, ask what telehealth services they have available. You probably won't be able to use telehealth for things like well-child visits, but for some other situations, it can be helpful to not drag a sick kid into the doctor's office.

8. Do you have separate areas for sick and well-child visits?

Not all offices will offer this, but some pediatrician's offices have separate wings for sick visits and well-child visits. That could look like dedicated rooms that are only used for sick vs. well-child visits, or in some cases, even separate waiting room areas.

Questions to Ask the Office and Staff

While getting to know your prospective doctor is crucial, don't forget to consider location when choosing a pediatrician. If your baby is sick, you won't want to travel far to get to the doctor, so it's a good idea to find one in your community.

You'll also want to assess the office off the bat. Take into consideration the cleanliness of the waiting area, how easy it is to get your questions answered, and if other patients seem to be waiting a long time.

And because the pediatrician won't be the only person you'll have questions for, here are some ideas of questions to ask the staff:

  • What are the office hours and what's the best way to get in touch after-hours?
    Does the practice accept your insurance?
  • Does it accept a variety of plans in case your coverage changes?
  • Is a payment plan possible if you are not covered?
  • Which hospital is the doctor affiliated with?
  • Does your insurance cover services there?
  • What specialists are on staff?
  • Is there a 24-hour phone or text line for parents?
  • If your child has to be admitted, can you stay overnight with them?
  • What's the average wait time to be seen?
  • Are you allowed to choose who your child sees if it's a group practice?
  • Is there a fee charged for paying deductibles with a credit card?
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