The five essentials to selecting a pediatrician you can trust

Finding the right pediatrician can certainly cause anxiety for new (or expectant) parents. It’s hard to know where to start when selecting your primary partner in your child’s health. You want to find a doctor who is skilled and friendly, but what else should you look for

There are five key areas you may want to assess to identify the pediatrician that is right for your family. Knowing the right questions to ask can help make easier one of the most important decisions in your child’s health.

1. Competence

This one may seem obvious, but it is a top priority. Pediatricians should be Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). The ABP tests pediatricians when they complete their training to make sure they are knowledgeable on all areas of pediatrics. Pediatricians must re-certify every 10 years with an examination and show proof of ongoing continuing medical education throughout their career.

When you are considering a pediatrician, be sure to ask about the status of the doctor’s Board Certification in Pediatrics.

2. Affiliations

It is important to consider not only the doctor, but also their current network of specialists and hospitals.

If your child were sick enough to require a hospital, where would the doctor send you? Who will manage your child’s medical care while in the hospital? If they need a specialist or surgeon, who would your doctor call upon? You may find differences in how each doctor makes these decisions.

Some pediatricians are independent from hospitals or health care systems and some are employed by hospitals or hospital corporations. Corporately owned doctors may be contracted to send patients to their own group or hospital. Independent physicians may not have this arrangement. There are advantages and disadvantages of both of these scenarios, but you should know, in advance, what your doctor’s plan is for additional care.

3. Availability

Children always seem to get sick at night or on the weekends! A non-emergency will likely arise for care outside of traditional office hours. It is important to consider how the doctor handles after-hours situations, as well as direct accessibility to the doctor at these times.

Ask if there is an after-hours facility or clinic that is affiliated with your doctor. Is the office open on weekends and/or holidays? Is the pediatrician available for phone calls and is there a fee associated with those calls? When and for what issues should those calls be placed?

You also will want to know if the pediatrician works in a group. This would raise the question of whether your child sees the doctor in the group that is available at the time of your appointment or your specific doctor. A group arrangement can allow for you to get faster and more convenient appointments. However, if you pick a primary doctor and the child sees that same doctor for every visit, you build a single relationship. Either way, you should decide what is best for your family.

4. Services and Ease of Use

What services outside of primary care does your doctor offer? Some doctors have in-house lactation nurses to help new mothers. Others have lab services on-site for convenience. Some allow you to make appointments and see your child’s labs and immunization records online. Determine which additional services might be important to you and ask your pediatrician about their capabilities in those areas.

5. Reputation

Few things put you at ease than the endorsement of your doctor by your friends or loved ones. Referrals for pediatricians from your network are a great compliment to your own research. Also, many pediatricians’ offices offer consultations to allow you to meet with the doctor before you choose. Any good doctor wants you to feel comfortable and confident in your child’s healthcare. You should have a comfortable relationship with your pediatrician and supported to ask any question.

In the end, you want to pick a pediatrician that will take the best care of your child. You want a doctor who will communicate easily with both you, as a parent, and with your child as he or she grows to adulthood.

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