HOW TO CHOOSE A PEDIATRICIAN (WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHAT TO ASK WHAT YOU WANT)
At first I thought I wasn't going to have any good thoughts on this because I don't have children myself. But then lol of course I have thoughts I'm super opinionated and bossy. Thank you, @white_lightning, for the request and permission to be bossy!
- •First of all, look for somewhere close to your homeI know you said this was a given for you, @white_lightning, but it bears repeating. You do not want to be lugging a baby far away in the first few months nor as they grow up and get sick and whiny.
- •Other kind of obvious things: make sure the clinic is comfortable and clean, has parking, has decent food nearby, etcetc.At the absolute minimum, for bare bones requirements, you will be there 6 times in the first year alone (and I would say a more reasonable estimate is going to be 8-10 times). You should not dread the physical space.
- •"Do you accept non-vaccinated children?"Leaving aside that this assumes you are vaccinating your child*, this question is vital to determine the safety of the waiting room. Unvaccinated kids are huge risks to your baby, who is too young for the protection that vaccines provide AND in whom these infections are much more serious. (*Listen, not to ruffle too many feathers, but if you're not vaccinating your child, this entire list is moot to you, because my educated thoughts and advice are already being discounted)
- •"Do you accept alternative vaccination schedules?"This is an entirely different question, in that I don't believe that saying yes is extremely dangerous. Some parents feel better bringing their child more frequently to get less shots each time. It's completely unsupported by evidence, and there are scientific reasons for the recommend schedule, but if this is something you think might matter, you should ask up front and make sure your doctor is open to it.
- •Electronic medical recordsYou want these. Electronic records almost always have patient portals, which offer easy access to your child's health information outside of the doctor's office without a trip to Medical Records. EMRs also facilitate easy transfer (or seamless, if they share the same system) of past medical history to another provider if your child needs care from a specialist or if you switch practices.
- •You do not want your (brand new baby's) pediatrician to be very very oldIt's a bit of catch-22. The older they are, the more experience they have, which is great. However, they are also closer to retirement and probably won't be working the entire time your child grows up (hence the clarification re: brand new baby). And being old school may mean being wise, but it can also mean not being up on the latest standards of care. I'm not saying you need someone young, but I wouldn't pick the oldest pediatrician you can find.
- •"What happens if my kid gets sick outside of business hours?"You probably want the answer to this to be some version of a triage nurse or an on-call doctor, but I leave it up to you to determine what makes you feel comfortable.
- •It is good for your pediatrician to have a hospital association somewhere you've heard ofHopefully, you'll never need to take your child there, but it is safe and smart to have it as an option. Also, a hospital relationship indicates established access to specialists, imaging (X-rays, ultrasounds, etc), and labs, should they be needed.
- •Nice, friendly, and competent receptionistsTheir roles vary depending on the structure of the clinic, but these are the people who take care of booking appointments, squeezing you in, looking for the time you want, getting you forms and making sure they're filled out correctly, figuring out who you need to talk to when you call -- all the stuff that makes your life easier. You want to like them and you want them to be good at their jobs.
- •Look for a good acute care/sick visit policyYou want a practice where there is some version of walk-in appointments for when your kid has been wheezing for days, but did not have the courtesy to tell you a week in advance that they were going to need a doctors appointment.
- •You want someone who fits your special mix of needsYou may need someone kind to reassure you if you are scared; someone patient to answer the same question 100 times when you are anxious; someone stern to tell you to stop asking the same question; someone formidable so you can find them authoritative and trustworthy; someone chatty so you can feel comfortable gabbing with them; someone soft-spoken so you can feel listened to; someone with kids so you feel like they're experienced; someone with no kids so you feel like their only focus is work...
- •Make a list of what you think you need (as above), but be flexible if the fit feels right anywayMore than anything else, you should feel like your pediatrician is trustworthy, listening to you, respecting you, and taking excellent care of your baby. If you meet someone who makes you feel that way, they're a good fit.
- •"How do you feel about the other physicians in this practice?"Because even though you've carefully vetted them, you won't always be seeing YOUR pediatrician and you can't meet everyone or know who they're going to hire. Your pediatrician will be booked solid when your child has an ear infection, or on vacation when they need a school physical. It happens. The actual answer to this question is not really where the money is, it's HOW they answer it. If it's quick and enthusiastic and positive, you're good.
- •Questions? Concerns? Comments? Complaints?How I end all my patient sign outs to colleagues and now how I end this list for YOU.