busy mom who has balanced family and a career in pediatrics for many years, I too understand the importance of having
a physician I can trust. My daughter, Emme, has grown into a healthy and
beautiful 19-year-old college student, but I can still remember when I
was pregnant and trying to find the “right” pediatrician for her care.
In my role, I know a lot of exceptional pediatricians, but I started to
observe them from the perspective of a parent, rather than a physician.
Ultimately, I chose my daughter’s pediatrician, not necessarily
because of his credentials, education or years of experience (although
those are all important factors), but because of his temperament, his
interaction with our family, and his alignment with my parenting style
and medical treatment philosophy.
Choosing a pediatrician who is going to care for your child from birth
to 18 is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your
little one. The process may seem daunting. Don’t agonize over trying
to find “the best pediatrician on earth”—you’re
simply looking for the best one for your child and family.
Of course, there are the basics you want to find out, like who your OB/GYN
or other mom friends recommend, the pediatrician’s education and
training, areas of interest or specialties, and whether your medical insurance
is accepted. Here’s a helpful
list of those basic questions you can ask.
But there are other important, and maybe less common, factors to keep in
mind when choosing your pediatrician. I recommend parents call and schedule
a time for a free, face-to-face “meet and greet” with the
pediatrician, and then ask yourselves these seven important questions:
Does the doctor respect your parenting style and medical care philosophy? Talk about your childcare and medical care philosophy as well as theirs.
If they’re different, it’s OK as long as there is mutual respect.
You want a pediatrician who is going to value your choices when it comes
to topics such as use of medicines, vaccines, sleep habits, discipline
issues, breastfeeding and circumcision.
I’m someone who believes in following the recommended vaccine schedule,
but I’m conservative when it comes to the use of antibiotics, and
I wanted to safely observe Emme before giving her medicine. The pediatrician
I chose respected my approach and allowed a safe “watch and see”
period before prescribing antibiotics. If there hadn’t been trust
between us, that might have been a very difficult conversation, but we
were able to be partners in her health care.
What is the doctor’s communication style and does it match yours? In the office, does the pediatrician make an effort to listen and ensure
your questions are answered, and offer to provide a written clinical summary?
You want a physician who is going to clearly explain illnesses and treatments
in a way that you can understand. Also, find out the doctor’s policy
on phone calls – if you call, will someone call you back within
a certain time period, or is there a nurse who can answer questions? Can
you reach the pediatrician through email, text or an electronic health
Kids aren’t always going to be sick and in need of medical intervention.
A lot of pediatrics is about communication and counseling. It’s
about well visits, milestones and preventative care, sprinkled in with
some sick visits. So, I focus a lot on tailoring communication for the
parents. If I’m prescribing something that takes multiple steps
or medications, for example, I handwrite out each step and clearly explain
it, then I have them repeat it back – I want to make sure the instructions
are clear for the parent, grandparent, babysitter or any other caregiver.
I also encourage my patients to sign up for our
Patient Portal, which allows them to review patient charts online and send me a secure
email message. It reduces a lot of “hold” time and phone tag.
Is there access to 24/7 care, beyond the “regular office hours?” Children don’t just get sick during your pediatrician’s “normal
office hours.” What happens if your pediatrician is on vacation
or it’s a holiday and the doctor’s office is closed? When
should you visit an urgent care or emergency room? It’s important
to choose a pediatrician who has a clear plan in place for health care
needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
At St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, we offer a group pediatrician practice
and have access to all patients’ medical records via our electronic
health record system. This means if I’m not available and it’s
normal business hours, there’s always another pediatrician in the
group who can see my patients as well as access their medical chart. I
can also access a chart or write or refill a prescription virtually using
this same technology. If it’s after hours, parents can take their
children to a pediatric urgent care or call a
Nurse Advice Line. It comes down to having access to health care beyond your scheduled appointments.
Which hospital is the doctor connected to? It’s important to know which hospital(s) your pediatrician is affiliated
with in the event that your child needs specialized care or is admitted
in an emergency situation. Physicians can only care for your child at
designated hospitals. If you are picky—and you should be—about
which hospital you’d want your child to receive specialty or inpatient
care, you should ask your pediatrician where they have hospital privileges
before choosing them as your pediatrician.
What is your overall assessment of the pediatrician? Do you sense the pediatrician has a genuine interest in your child, and
demonstrates compassion and patience? As a parent, are you given the time
and attention you need, or do you feel rushed and not a priority? Think
about how the pediatrician interacts with your child, and how your child
responds. It has to be a good personality match between the physician
and you and your child for this relationship to last.
What do you think of the overall office and staff? When you come to your “meet and greet,” pay attention to your
surroundings. Notice if the office staff smiles and makes eye contact.
Pay attention to the wait time and whether the waiting room looks pleasant
and kid-friendly. Make sure the bathrooms are clean and patient rooms
are welcoming. Determine if the parking situation is convenient and safe.
The whole process, from the time you arrive to the time you see your pediatrician
in the exam room, should be a pleasant experience. You’ll likely
spend a good amount of time visiting your pediatrician, especially when
your children are young, so make sure it meets your comfort level and
customer service expectations.
What’s your gut telling you? Sometimes all it comes down to is whether you “click” with
the physician. Maybe you are more comfortable with a pediatrician of a
certain sex or age, or you’ll only trust someone who has children
of his or her own. You may need someone who has a good sense of humor
and isn’t so serious. The bond between parent and pediatrician is
important, and you need to have confidence and be comfortable with the doctor.
The bottom line is you should choose a compassionate pediatrician that
you and your child are comfortable with through the years. This is the
person you'll want to call when your baby wakes up with a high fever
and won’t stop crying; when your toddler refuses to eat vegetables;
when your young child can’t stop wetting the bed or gets injured
from a bad fall; and when your pre-teen starts to experience changes in
puberty. A pediatrician should be a partner in caring for what matters
Do you have other recommendations on how to choose the best pediatrician,
or is there a pediatrician in your life you’d like to give a shout
out to? Share your story below.
Read more about what
Dr. Bartlett has to say in the following articles: