How to Choose a Pediatrician

You are about to become a new parent. You are picking out names, decorating the baby's new room, and collecting all of the little odds and ends babies need. But one of the most important decisions you will need to make is selecting a pediatrician, the primary health care provider for your little one.

Choosing a pediatrician is perhaps one of the most important decisions parents make in the life of their child. Many babies will visit the pediatrician as many as eleven times throughout the first year of life for both well-baby and other visits. The pediatrician does more than tend to a child's illnesses; he or she will also monitor the overall health and well-being of your child and can be your guide through your child's growth and development. For these reasons, it is important to find a pediatrician whom you trust, and with whom you and your child feel comfortable.

Perhaps you are not a "new" parent—maybe you are just new to the Rochester area. In either event, the following guide will take you step by step through the process of selecting a pediatrician.

Step 1: Get Recommendations

The first step in your search for a pediatrician is to ask around. Ask other parents—your friends, neighbors, and/or coworkers—whom they would recommend. If you are expecting, try to begin this process at least three months before the baby's due date. Some questions you should ask other parents:

  • How does their child respond to this doctor? To his or her staff?
  • Does their child dread or seem to fear the doctor, or does he/she seem comfortable with the doctor and staff?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking questions during the visit, or even calling at another time to ask questions?
  • Does the doctor take time during visits, or do you feel rushed?
  • How quickly can you get an appointment for a well-child visit or for a sick-child visit? What about after-hours or on the weekend?
  • Does the doctor and staff provide ample information regarding child development, immunizations, and/or illness?
  • What can you tell me about the pediatrician's philosophy of treatment? Does he/she take a more proactive approach to treatment, or a more relaxed "wait and see" approach?

Step 2: Develop Criteria

Before you begin to interview any of the recommended doctors, determine what is important to your family, and rank the recommendations accordingly. Perhaps location is very important, or that a pediatrician has evening or weekend hours. Consider the reasons why a doctor was recommended, but also consider the practice size (large versus a small practice), location, and hours. Also, find out if the recommended doctors have been board certified and if they have any specialties or areas of interest. A pediatrician who specializes in adolescent health may not be your first choice for your newborn.

Once you have what is important for your family and look at your list of recommended doctors, and select those you want to interview.

Step 3: Interview Your Top Candidates

This step is particularly important. Most doctors are happy to meet with prospective patients and their parents. When setting the appointment, ask if there is a charge for this consultation.

The interview should be a face to face interview at the doctor's practice. If possible, both parents should attend. Here are a few suggested questions:

  • How many doctors are in the practice? Will your child see the same doctor each visit, or will he or she see different doctors on a rotation?
  • Are there nurse practitioners in the office? What is their role?
  • How are sick-child visits handled (e.g., certain hours, special waiting rooms, etc.)?
  • How do parents reach the office or a doctor in an after hours/weekend emergency?
  • Will the doctor and/or nurse practitioner provide consultation over the phone or via email?
  • What is the doctor's view on important topics such as breastfeeding, circumcision, discipline, etc.?
  • To what hospital(s) does the pediatrician have admitting privileges?
  • Does the practice work with your insurance plan?

During the interview, pay attention to the doctor's manner. Do you have his/her undivided attention? Do you feel at ease asking questions? If you have brought your child with you, does he or she seem comfortable with the doctor? Also, pay attention to other aspects of the office. Was parking available and accessible? Was the staff friendly and helpful?

Step 4: Review Your List

After you have interviewed at least two doctors (try to interview two or three), compare the interview experience with the list of attributes that are important to your family, and begin to determine the best fit.

Step 5: Make a Choice

Once you have found a doctor who meets your family's needs, accepts your insurance, and is accepting new patients, go ahead and let the office know that you have made a decision. If you are pregnant, you will need to let the office know your due date so they can expect a call from the hospital at the time of your baby's birth. If you are not pregnant, you may schedule your child's next well-child appointment.

If You Are Not Happy With Your Choice

If, down the road, you are not happy with the pediatrician you have chosen, you can always make a change. First, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician, but if the problem cannot be resolved, feel free to choose a different doctor. After all, this is your child's primary health care provider, and you and your child should be happy with your choice.