Before making your final choice for a pediatrician, you should consider some practical matters:
- Is the pediatrician on your insurance plan?
- Is he or she in a convenient location so that you don't have to drive for an hour with a sick child?
- Are the office hours convenient for you?
- How long do you have to wait for an appointment?
- Will you always see your own pediatrician?
- How long will you be kept waiting in the office?
- Is someone available when the office is closed if you need help?
- Is the office affiliated with a children's hospital?
Although you could wait until your prenatal visit to consider these questions, you could also do a little homework on your own and call the offices to save some time. One "wrong" answer may not be enough to disqualify a potential doctor, but if you get several unsatisfactory answers, especially for the questions that are most important to you, then scratch that doctor's name off of your list of candidates.
Once you find a pediatrician that you like, be sure to take some steps to keep the relationship healthy, such as by showing up for your appointments on time, not showing up without an appointment, and not waiting until after-hours to call with nonurgent problems.
Next, find out if the pediatricians that you are considering agree with your positions on important matters, like breastfeeding, antibiotic overuse, circumcision, and so on. If not, are they at least flexible and willing to help you do things the way you want to, even if they disagree with your methods?
The New Dad Consult
Although the first visit with a pediatrician is often called a "new mom consult," it is usually best if both mom and dad go to any prenatal visits to meet the doctors that you are considering. After you make a list of candidates from recommendations and the questions found in this chapter, try to schedule a prenatal visit to meet each doctor. While some doctors charge for these "interviews," most provide them as a free service.
You will want to ask several questions about issues that are important to you, but the main point of these visits is simply to find out if you feel comfortable with the pediatrician and to see how his office works. For example, if you see a waiting room that is overflowing with frustrated parents who seem to be waiting for long periods of time, you might end up waiting for your visits, too, unless there was an emergency that put the office behind schedule. If you show up early for your prenatal visit and see a regular stream of kids come in and quickly go back to see the doctor, then you have likely found an office that is run very efficiently and which you might want to go to yourself.
You Can Change Your Mind
Even with a lot of recommendations and a good prenatal visit, it will still take a few "real-world" visits to find out if you have found the right pediatrician for you. It could be that there is a policy you didn't know about, or maybe the doctor was simply on her best behavior for the "interview." If you later encounter problems with your pediatrician or her office and you can't resolve them, start the process over and look for another pediatrician.