Need a new pediatrician - how to find?

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MissyJ's picture
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3289
Need a new pediatrician - how to find?

Question for the Answer Box (i.e. responses from YOU!): How did you find a pediatrician that you like? I am not happy with our current one. During appointments, he often seems distracted and disinterested in my children. When I try to ask questions, I feel dismissed or like I'm wasting his time. I want a pediatrician I can trust.

Spacers's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4104

I belong to an HMO so I was limited to a particular group. Our HMO hosts a "Meet the Peds" night once a month but I actually picked our first ped based on recommendations from moms in my homebirth group who said she was open to delayed vaccinations, supportive of cosleeping, etc. She was great for a while when DD was a baby. But then as DD grew, that ped was still not engaging with her. She would be doing an exam and talking with us, never to DD, never telling DD that she would be turning her over or that the stethoscope might be cold, and that just felt very weird. So I started asking for different peds when I made appointments for sick visits and was able to see half a dozen of them over the course of a year and finally really clicked with one of them. Our current ped came into the room the first time with a big smile, and said to DD, "I'm looking for butterflies. Do you have any butterflies in your ear? Can I look in your ear for a butterfly?" We made the switch to her and have been super happy ever since. Good luck finding someone you can click with!

ChristaM's picture
Last seen: 9 months 1 week ago
Joined: 01/11/04
Posts: 714

1) Is your pediatrician part of a group? If so, you could try seeing each of the others to find the best fit for your needs.

2) You could ask local friends/moms for referals, post on a local yahoo/facebook group asking for suggestions, etc.

3) I personally got a list of potential pediatricians from my OB when I was pregnant with my first (of course they are affiliated with the same hospital -- but it worked out fine). Then, we attended a class that was part of our lamaze lessons where we could ask questions and got basic info from a pediatrician (you could look and see if your local hospital has something similar). I then setup an appointment to interview the office -- I came prepared with a whole list of questions (we didn't ask them all, but rather went with our gut). The office was even impressed with how prepared we were!

Just in case you have an interest, here is the list of questions I compiled:

Following is a list of 10 things that deserve careful consideration as you try to find the best professional to suit your family's needs:

  • Type of training. There are several types of healthcare professionals who are qualified to provide general medical care for children. They include pediatricians, family physicians, and pediatric nurse practitioners. If you like one type more than another, by all means, go with your preference.
  • Personal characteristics. Consider whether age or gender makes a difference to you. Some parents clearly prefer older, more experienced practitioners, while others are looking for someone young and fresh out of training. Either way, make sure that the provider's bedside manner suits your own interactive style. If she is authoritative and formal, and you prefer a more informal style, you may want to keep looking.

    If you have only boys or only girls, you might want to consider the possibility that they will be more comfortable with someone of their own sex as they approach the teen years.

    As you near the end of the selection process, make an appointment to meet with the practitioner so that you can see if the two of you work together comfortably.

  • Support for your beliefs. If you have particularly strong beliefs--especially if they are not widely held (for example, about issues like the family bed, breastfeeding, and/or immunizations) be sure to discuss them with a prospective practitioner before settling on him. You'll want a healthcare provider who is willing to support you and offer guidance based on your decisions.
  • Office location. This deserves some consideration, since you likely will be taking your child to the office frequently. Although you usually can plan routine visits well in advance, you never know when--or how often--you may need to take your child in when she is sick. Think about whether it is more convenient for you to find a practitioner with an office that's close to your home, your work (or your spouse's), or your child's daycare or school.
  • Type of practice. Practices range in type and size from individual to large group and from those that are privately owned to those that are operated by a managed-care corporation or hospital. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking at a group practice, for example, think about whether it is important for you to see the same practitioner most or all of the time. If it is, be sure to ask if that will be possible.

    Similarly, if the practitioner you are considering works alone, inquire about what should happen if your child needs to be seen when the practitioner is ill, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable.

  • Availability. Finding a conveniently located practitioner who has a great bedside manner won't do you any good if his availability doesn't mesh with your schedule. Ask when his office is open, paying particular attention to his availability when you are usually free (e.g., if you work on weekdays, ask about evening or weekend office hours). You also will want to know if he has more than one office or if he only works part time, because this may make it more likely that he will be across town or off-duty when you need him most.
  • Timing of visits. While there is a fairly standard schedule for well-child care visits, you should also ask how much time your practitioner typically schedules for each well visit. Is it 10 minutes or 20? Does she schedule sick visits at 5-minute intervals or 15? Don't be afraid to ask the office staff, as well as the practitioner, if she routinely runs late or if she usually is able to stick pretty close to her schedule.

    If her being on time is important to you, you may even want to stop by and observe a typical day in the waiting room and talk to other parents in the practice. While every office has days with unavoidable delays, you'll find that some offices are much more prone to running behind schedule than others.

  • Handling of office calls, both during and after hours. This is an important one. Find out how the office handles parents' calls during regular office hours as well as after hours. Some practices offer a phone-in hour during the day when a practitioner dedicates time specifically to answering calls. If that is the case, you'll obviously want to inquire as to when that hour is.

    Other offices hire a trained nurse to give phone advice. A third way involves the practitioner answering calls when time allows throughout the day or after all her patients have been seen.

    As for after-hours calls, some practitioners will take calls from their own patients (or the patients in their medical group) with the assistance of an answering service. Some don't take night calls at all; either they have others in their group answer calls from their patients or pay someone else to do it. Still others have calls directed to an after-hours call center and only become involved in the few instances where the problem is serious.

  • Insurance coverage and/or cancellation fees. For most people, the choice of a practitioner is going to be limited to those who are covered by their insurance plan. In addition to finding out which providers participate in your plan, be sure to ask whether or not they charge a cancellation fee if you fail to show up for an appointment without calling ahead to cancel.
  • Trust your feelings. Even if you put a lot of effort into selecting the right practitioner for your child, things sometimes just don't work out. If, for any reason, you do not feel comfortable with the provider you've chosen (for example, you don't think he really listens to you, or you don't completely trust his advice), you should consider changing practitioners. If your child becomes very sick, you will want to be able to turn to someone who you trust and respect--and who you genuinely feel has your child's best interests at heart.

    Following is a list of specific questions for your consideration as you try to find the best professional to suit your family's needs:

    Office Protocols / Logistics[LIST=1]

  • Is the office conveniently located for less travel time with a sick child?
  • Does the practice have multiple offices you can visit? Some pediatricians have more than one office and may only be in your area on certain days.
  • Hospital Affiliation - Is the hospital the pediatrician is affiliated with close to you? Do they accept your insurance?
  • Office Hours - Do they have early morning, evening or weekend appointments available?
  • How long in advance must you book appointments?
  • What happens if you miss a scheduled visit? Can you easily reschedule?
  • Does the office mail out reminders for scheduled immunizations and checkups?
  • Typical Waiting Time (both waiting room and before the doctor enters the exam room) - Do appointments consistently run late? (Ask parents in the waiting room)
  • Does he/she make house calls?
  • Office Call Hours - Do the staff turn off the phones during lunch?
  • Is there a specific time during the day that the doctor will take phone calls?
  • Will the doctor give you advice after hours or is there a 24 hour nurse/doctor hotline?
  • How does the office handle your phone-in questions?
  • What is the waiting time for return calls when having medical questions?
  • Does the doctor answer any general questions by email?
  • How does the office deal with after-hours illnesses? / emergencies? Will he see you after hours if your child is very sick, or send you to an Emergency Room? Some pediatricians tell parents to take emergencies straight to the emergency room. Others ask you to call their office first, and depending on the concern, will see you at the office or meet you at the ER. Some pediatricians are available for emergencies at night, on weekends, or over a holiday.
  • Is the phone answered by a 24 hour answering service who can connect you to a doctor? Or does the doctor carry a pager? Is there always someone on call?
  • Type of practice - Do you prefer group or solo practices? If it's a group practice, will you be able to always see the same pediatrician?
  • If solo practice, who covers for the doctor when he/she is on vacation? Does he/she follow the same principles in their practice?
  • If group; how many doctors are there in the practice? Are there any plans to add (or remove) doctors from the practice?
  • Are there any diagnostic facilities on site such as X-rays, blood work, etc.?
  • What emergencies is the doctor equipped to handle in his office? (helpful in knowing where to go doctor?s office versus emergency room)
  • What lab work can be performed at the pediatrician's office?
  • How much time do they schedule for a well-baby checkup? (should be at least half an hour to allow time to answer your questions). How long does the initial exam/visit last?
  • Who administers immunizations to the children? What are their credentials, training and experience?
  • Which pediatric specialists are used for referrals and which hospitals do they practice at?

    Fees, Methods of Payment [LIST=1]

  • How much are the fees for standard office visits?
  • Are immunization shots extra, or are they included in the office visit charge?
  • Does the pediatrician accept your insurance?
  • How are insurance claims handled, and will the pediatrician bill your insurance company directly?
  • Will they accept your insurance company's R&C as payment in full?
  • Payment options: Do they accept cash, checks and/or credit cards?
  • Is payment due at the time of the visit, or will the pediatrician bill you?
  • Is there a missed appointment fee; how far in advance is the cancellation policy?

    Pediatrician Background, Credentials, Experience [LIST=1]

  • How did you decide on pediatrics?
  • When and where did the pediatrician complete medical school and residency?
  • Is he/she a member of the American Academy Of Pediatrics or any other specialty organization? Are they board certified or board eligible?
  • How long has the pediatrician been in practice?
  • What does he do to keep his medical knowledge up to date?
  • Does the pediatrician have any areas of subspecialty?
  • What hospitals does the pediatrician have privileges at? (useful in case of emergency)
  • How long do they plan to continue at the current practice?

    Questions for Birth[LIST=1]

  • Will the doctor be present at the birth?
  • If not, how soon after the baby is born will the pediatrician come to see it at the hospital?
  • What tests do you routinely do after birth? Why?
  • How do you handle jaundice?
  • What is your criteria for early discharge? Rooming in?
  • Breastfeeding: How can you assist us in getting a good start? Can you enforce a "no pacifier/no supplementary bottles" request? Can you facilitate a request for "on demand " feeding?

    Pediatrician Philosophy[LIST=1]

  • Does the pediatrician share your attitude when it comes to:
    • Breastfeeding? See what his/her responses to certain scenarios involving difficulty nursing would be. How knowledgeable is he/she about breast feeding? Have they attended seminars/classes taught by a certified lactation consultant?
    • Bottle feeding? Do you have a preference for types of bottle, nipples and formula? Why?
    • Children's nutrition (ie When do you introduce solid foods?) When do you feel vitamins should be given? Fluoride?
    • Vegetarianism/Veganism?
    • Preventative medicine?
    • Discipline?
    • Circumcision? What are the pros and cons?
      • Cloth versus disposable diapers? Why? Is there a difference in the health of the babies skin? What are the pros and cons of each?
    • Do recommend specific supplies and equipment? Why?
    • Other issues important to you?


    • How does the pediatrician feel about mothers calling in after hours over "little things"?
    • What is the doctors? view on treatment of sick kids? When do you think prescription drugs are necessary? Why?
    • Does she/he take an aggressive approach or does she/he "let nature take its course" before actively treating the child?
    • What is the doctor's attitude toward both parents working (if they do)?
    • What are their standard procedures for healthy child checkups?

      ?>Lobby/Waiting room:

      • Is it clean?
      • Are the sick and healthy kids kept apart? Are there separate waiting for rooms for sick versus well visits? Or separate appointment times/hours?
      • Is it large and spacious -or- tiny and cramped?
      • Does it have age appropriate toys? Are here many easy-to-clean toys? Are they clean?
      • Has it been childproofed?
      • Is there child-size furniture?


      • Examination room:
        • Is it clean?
          • Is there age appropriate stimulus?
        • Has it been childproofed?


        • Staff/Pediatrician attitude towards your child - Does the staff/pediatrician seem to enjoy your children? Are they friendly and caring?
        • Staff/Pediatrician attitude towards parent(s)- Does the staff/pediatrician treat you with respect? Are they friendly and caring?
        • Does she/he volunteer information or wait for questions? Does the doctor spend the time to explain everything?
          Does the doctor involve both parents equally? (as opposed to just speaking to the father(mother) as if the mother(father) wasn't there (assuming he/she is present)).
        • Does the doctor expect parents to be knowledgeable consumers or just accept anything she/he says?
        • Your comfort level with the pediatrician - Do you feel comfortable around the pediatrician? Do you feel hurried or rushed?
        • Do you like the nurses and staff?
        • Are there enough staff members?
        • How experienced is the staff? Do they employ any specialized nurses?
        • Nurse-Practitioner - Are nurse-practitioners part of the practice?