During your baby’s first year, they may visit a pediatrician a half-dozen times for routine checkups or sicknesses. Given that your family will spend a significant amount of time with your pediatrician and rely on them to provide sound medical advice, it’s important to select a doctor whose personality meshes with your own and who is an experienced expert in their field of study. Whether you’re a first-time parent or have had multiple children, having an empathetic and skilled doctor in your corner can be a massive relief.
In this article, we discuss some tips for finding the best pediatrician for your family’s needs, so that your child has the medical care and support they need as they navigate their early years.
Why Do You Need a Pediatrician?
Pediatricians specialize in understanding the physical, social, and emotional development of children. Especially when children are too young to talk and advocate for their own needs, it’s essential to have a doctor that can recognize potential problems and keep your child healthy and happy. A good pediatrician helps parents understand and build upon their child’s development, while also answering any medical questions that come up along the way.
Performing Thorough Research
Selecting the correct pediatrician for your family’s needs requires a degree of patience and effort. Every family’s medical situation is unique, and the time and energy you spend searching for the perfect pediatrician will likely pay off in the end. Hurrying to choose a pediatrician increases the risk of your child suffering a preventable injury due to poor or rushed medical care. Before making your final decision on your new pediatrician, it’s wise to:
- Verify that the doctor’s office takes your healthcare plan and is currently accepting new patients
- Ask friends and family members that live in your area if they have a pediatrician they’d recommend
- Consider the pros and cons of each doctor’s office: Where are they located? What regular office hours does each doctor hold? Does a pediatrician offer weekend and after-hours consultations for emergency care? Does your doctor work as part of a medical group? If so, which of their colleagues would care for your child if your regular pediatrician is unavailable? If not, how will you get emergency care if your doctor is sick or out of the office?
- Discuss how a doctor’s office handles billing: How much will you be expected to pay for a routine visit? Do payments need to be made in full after a visit or can bills be paid over time?
- Meet with a pediatrician before your child’s birth to get a sense of their personality and discuss any anticipated developmental or health needs
To give yourself enough time to research multiple doctors, you should probably begin your search for a pediatrician no less than three months before your due date.
Reviewing a Doctor’s Past Experience & Credentials
After you’ve confirmed that a pediatrician is a good match for you and your family, it’s essential to learn as much about their medical background as possible. Ideally, you want a doctor that has experience treating children with a wide range of needs, so they are well-prepared to address any situations that arise with your own child’s health or development.
You may consider whether a pediatrician is credentialed by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), which symbolizes that a doctor has “promoted excellence in medical care for children and adolescents.” To confirm whether a doctor has been certified by the ABP, click here to visit the board’s website.
Be on the lookout for any potential red flags. You should check to see whether a pediatrician has any medical malpractice claims or disciplinary actions on their record. It is not uncommon for doctors in the U.S. to be subject to a medical malpractice claim at some point in their career, but a doctor with multiple lawsuits against them for poor outcomes should be a clear warning. You can check the website of your state’s medical board to search for disciplinary actions against a doctor and review court records in the area where your doctor practices for lawsuits. Finally, perform searches on Google (or your search engine of choice) combining keywords like “malpractice case,” “patient complaint,” “lawsuit,” and “problem” with your doctor’s name.
See How Your Doctor & Newborn Interact
Once you’ve settled on your family’s pediatrician, observe how the doctor interacts with your child during your first few office visits. The bond between your child and their pediatrician is an incredibly important one that will last for many years. It’s vital to choose a doctor that your child can be comfortable with as they grow up and mature.
You should pay particular attention to how your pediatrician:
- Communicates: Does your doctor explain things to you in a way that makes sense? As your child grows up and is able to communicate more effectively, does your doctor approach conversations in an age-appropriate manner?
- Builds trust: Does your pediatrician attempt to build trust and a positive relationship with your child? How does your doctor interact with your child over the course of an average visit?
Finding a Doctor You Can Trust for a Long-Time Commitment
When it comes to choosing a pediatrician, you want to select a doctor that you can continually go back to for years as your child grows up. By carefully reviewing a potential doctor’s medical record, meeting them in person, and observing how they interact with your child during the first few visits, you can find a practitioner that will keep your loved one safe and healthy for years to come.