Finding the pediatrician who is the best fit for your family can be overwhelming. As soon as you begin asking friends and family, you will find yourself wading in a sea of overlapping names and exclamations of “He’s the best!”, “My kids love her!” or “She is so nice!” The truth is, most people DO love their pediatrician. The pediatrician-family relationship is unique A pediatrician is a source of parenting knowledge and support for you as well as the healthcare provider for your children. When you choose your pediatrician, you are saying “I trust you, I like you and I want us to work together to make the best decisions for my family.” Your pediatrician is your teammate – and you get to choose who is on your team.
So, where and when do you start trying to find this elusive ideal teammate?
We recommend beginning your search around 28-32 weeks of pregnancy – but remember, the earlier you start, the less rushed you will feel! Your obstetrician is a good place to start; he or she can give you a few recommendations and will often refer pediatricians near where you live. You can ask friends and families for recommendations, but keep in mind things that are important to you may not be as important to your friends or family. If someone offers a negative or positive opinion about a particular pediatrician, it may be helpful to ask why they feel that way. Consider those reviews carefully.
You can also use your health insurance website, your delivering hospital’s website and social media to look for pediatrician candidates. Information about a pediatrician’s education and office structure can often be found on their professional website. You should make sure a pediatrician is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Gathering this preliminary information can help you narrow down which pediatricians you wish to learn more about and eventually interview.
What’s Important to You?
There are several aspects of a pediatric office that you should consider when deciding where to go. Here are some of the most important:
- The Practice: Is it large or small? Is it near your home? Will you always see your pediatrician, or might you see a partner or a nurse practitioner? Are there separate waiting rooms or waiting spaces for sick and well children? Or separate waiting accommodations for newborns and babies? Is the waiting room crowded?
- Practice Style: Do the pediatricians stay current with evidence-based medicine, including only prescribing antibiotics when indicated, ordering minimal labs and X-rays and giving necessary vaccinations?
- Care for Newborns: Will your newborn be seen in the hospital by your pediatrician after delivery, or will you see one of the hospital’s pediatricians?
- Support: If you choose to breastfeed, does this pediatrician offer lactation support or education? What resources or help do they offer if you are struggling with breastfeeding?
- Access to Care: How do you reach your pediatrician during office hours? How quickly are calls returned? And by whom? Can your child be seen the same day if you request an appointment due to illness? Who can you see after hours?
- Access to Specialists and Ancillary Care: Is the practice located in a building that also houses pediatric specialists, a laboratory, and X-ray machines? (Note: The Children’s Specialty Care Center is a great example of an all-inclusive setting with specialists, radiology, laboratory, and pediatrics all in the same building.)
- How important is it that your pediatrician is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics? Many Pediatricians have the FAAP designation after their name which indicates they are active members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and support AAP guidelines for preventative care as well as diagnosis and management of childhood illnesses and conditions.
The ‘Meet and Greet’
Call the offices you have researched and ask to meet the pediatricians. You can ask to meet more than one pediatrician in a practice as well. Ask for a one-on-one meeting. When you arrive, pay attention to how the office is run and especially how you are welcomed by the front desk person. This person is often your first contact when you call or come into an office. No one wants to encounter a crabby or unfriendly front desk person when bringing their child to see the doctor! Have a conversation with the doctor. Bring a list of questions if you have one and feel free to ask away!
Consider your conversation with the pediatrician and ask yourself these questions:
- Did you like this person?
- Did this person make you feel hurried or rushed?
- Were you comfortable talking to this person?
- Can you imagine yourself seeing this person frequently – talking openly, asking questions freely and feeling your concerns would be validated?
Making The Choice
Go with your gut. Answering positively to the questions above is the most important. The choice of a pediatrician is a personal choice and hopefully a long-term relationship.
Resources for Finding Pediatricians
If you need help finding a pediatrician, you can call the St. Louis Children’s Hospital answer line at 314-454-KIDS or 800-678-KIDS