Deciding which pediatrician you will trust with the care of your new baby is a big decision, and one that is made differently by different parents. Although there might not be one best way to choose a good pediatrician that you will be happy with, there are some things that you should not do.
- Don't just pick a doctor from the phone book or from a list provided by your insurance company.
- Don't pick whoever is "on-call" when your baby is born.
- Don't go to a pediatrician that someone else likes unless you ask what they like about the doctor.
- Don't go to a doctor just because the office is in a convenient location.
It is important to choose a pediatrician before your baby is born so that if anything goes wrong, you will know who is taking care of your baby and advising you on medical decisions that you must make. Choosing the right doctor may mean avoiding unnecessary tests or treatments from a provider who is overly aggressive or, on the other hand, avoiding a doctor who misses something important because of an inappropriate "wait-and-see" attitude.
Your choice is fairly easy if you already have a pediatrician who has been caring for your other children or if your own pediatrician is still practicing. If not, the best way to find a pediatrician is to get recommendations from friends or family members who have a pediatrician that they like. But it is important to find out why they like their doctor. Is it simply because the office is efficient and they can get in and out quickly? Or is it because they always get an antibiotic when they want one?
When accepting someone's recommendation, make sure that you are comfortable with the reason why they like the pediatrician, and that this reason has something to do with being an educated and competent doctor (not a personal preference for the way the waiting room is decorated, for instance). The same applies when a person recommends against a doctor, because the reason for being unhappy with that particular pediatrician may be something that wouldn't bother you. Your partner's own OB/GYN doctor might also be a good source of a recommendation, but again, ask why she is recommending the pediatrician.
The American Board of Pediatrics reports that there are 77,328 Board-certified pediatricians in the United States, and an additional 2,500 new pediatricians graduate from residency training programs each year. Only 9 percent of them practice in rural areas, though, so whether it will be easy for you to see a pediatrician is likely to depend on where you live.
The most common reasons for a child to go to the doctor, besides well visits, include having an ear infection, an upper respiratory tract infection, and gastroenteritis, with diarrhea and vomiting.
Although parents often focus on office hours, hospital affiliations, and length of wait times, one of the most important things to focus on is the pediatrician's style of practicing medicine. Does he wear a white coat and tie and seem very formal, or does he dress casually and have a playful, informal style? Does he spend a long time explaining things, or does he provide you with reference material that you can take home and read?
Recognizing the pediatrician's style is important, because just as we each become friends with different types of people, there will likely be a particular pediatrician's style with which you and your baby's mother will be most comfortable.
It is also important to consider your own expectations when you choose a pediatrician. Do you want to always be able to talk to the doctor when you call for advice, and not have to speak with a nurse? Do you expect these calls to be able to last fifteen or thirty minutes?
If you have moved or your previous pediatrician is no longer practicing, you can't always expect to have the same relationship with your new doctor. Just because your previous pediatrician gave you her home phone number to use at any time does not mean that your new pediatrician will do the same thing. The one thing you should expect is that building a relationship takes time on both ends, although with time you may get those same privileges from another doctor.