How To Select A Pediatrician
Choosing a good pediatrician is vital to your child’s well-being. Even if your child isn’t born yet, it’s still a good idea to start looking. Many experts advise beginning your search for a pediatrician within the second trimester. These doctors are specialists in treating children and babies, and can educate you about your child’s health and development, diagnose and treat common illnesses, administer vaccinations, and refer you to specialists if need be.
The good news is that pediatrics is a common medical specialty, and you may have a wide range of doctors to choose from. The bad news is that doctors aren’t interchangeable. You’ll “click” with some doctors immediately, and they’ll become an important part of your kid’s childhood. But others may fail to tend properly to your child, or heed your concerns. Read on to learn how to select a pediatrician some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the right one.
Recommendations aren’t everything. Everyone will have different experiences at doctors and clinics, and people value different criteria. Even if a physician comes highly recommended, they may not be taking new patients.
But asking the parents you know for recommendations is a good place to start. This way, you can avoid getting overwhelmed by all your options. Keep in mind that while online review sites may have a lot of information, they’re not always reliable, and you’ll generally have a better sense of how your friends may be biased.
Your insurance will be a major determiner in your hunt for a pediatrician. Some doctors will be in-network for you, and others won’t. If you choose an out-of-network physician, you’ll need to pay out of pocket, and that can get pricey fast.
So it’s always better to choose a doctor that’s in-network, unless you’re in a truly extraordinary situation, such as needing a particular specialty or not being able to find someone in your area. If that’s the case, it may be worthwhile to look into changing your insurance, rather than choosing a doctor who doesn’t meet your child’s needs.
Seeking Out Specialties
Thankfully, most parents only need a pediatrician who’s the equivalent of a general practitioner. These doctors can meet the vast majority of a healthy child’s needs.
However, if your child has unusual or chronic health concerns, you may need to seek out a pediatrician with a specialty in treating that illness. For instance, a child born with heart problems might need a pediatrician whose subspecialty is cardiology.
It can be difficult to find these doctors. They may be out of your coverage network, or you may have to travel some distance to see them. But if your child’s medical problems are serious, they can vastly improve your child’s quality of life, so ideally you shouldn’t avoid them just because they may be inconvenient.
It’s rare to encounter an unlicensed doctor, because the consequences for practicing without a license are so severe. But it does happen, and when a doctor (or a “doctor”) is skirting a licensure requirement it’s usually for a serious reason. So take a few minutes to look for the doctor on your state licensing board’s website.
Most medical boards will have an online interface where you can enter the doctor’s name and find out information about their license. If they’re licensed, you know they’ve met certain basic criteria, including graduation from medical school, passing all medical examinations, completing a three-year pediatric residency, and complying with your state’s continuing education requirements. You’ll also see information about any disciplinary actions against the doctor.
If you don’t see any information about the doctor on the licensing board’s website, reach out to the licensing board. They may be able to turn up information you can’t (for any reason), and if the doctor is actually practicing with a license they can investigate the issue.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to start contacting doctors and their offices, and asking questions to figure out if they’re a good fit. These questions might include:
- What medical school did they go to, and where did they do their residency?
- If the doctor referred the child to a hospital, where would they go?
- Where is the office located, and what are their hours?
- How soon are they accepting new patients, and when is the next appointment available?
- Is there a nurse on call to answer common questions?
Gauge the First Interaction
You are never “locked in” to seeing a particular doctor, even if you’ve signed paperwork and released records to them. You can always see another doctor if it isn’t working out.
Think of your child’s first appointment with a new pediatrician like it’s an interview. If you’re not impressed with the doctor for any reason, you are always free to find another pediatrician. Searching for a new doctor can be a frustrating process, especially when you’ve already put so much time into your search, but it’s far preferable to being stuck with a doctor that doesn’t suit your family’s needs.
Choosing a pediatrician is a vitally important process, it’s a major contributor to your child’s health. By choosing a knowledgable, skilled, and compassionate practitioner, you’ll rest assured that you’ve made the best choice.