Mom’s Orders: Choosing the Right Pediatrician for Your Children

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I didn’t realize the impact of choosing the right pediatrician for your unborn child until one day last summer.

It was just an ordinary day that day until my son, Chase, started complaining of a stomach ache. I asked the usual mom questions, felt for a fever and summed it up to jitters. The first day of fifth grade was the next day, after all. But when he volunteered to go to bed at 7, my mom alarm went off. It takes more than a miracle for this to occur. True to my instinct, Chase ran a mild fever through the night. The next day, missing the first day of school, we set off for the walk-in clinic at our pediatrician’s office.

Chase was met with a knock-knock joke, a high-five and a listening ear. Besides being a little bloated, his blood pressure, urine and blood work all came back normal. Yet the doctor looked at me with understanding and listened to my mom’s intuition when I said, “Chase doesn’t complain. We’d both feel better if we got an X-ray, right?”

At 7 that night the doctor called and said the x-ray showed gas which made it a little hard to read, but it explained his bloating, he said. He also said there was something the size of a peach pit behind Chase’s intestine that he couldn’t get a good look at. He wanted to do a CT scan to get a better look. Chase missed his second day of school for the 12 p.m. appointment the next day.

It is the surreal memory of the phone ringing at 1:03 p.m. – just one hour after his CT scan – that I will never forget.

My pediatrician became my life line as I sank onto my bed in a state of shock listening to him deliver the devastating news that the “gas” they saw was actually fluid in his abdomen and that the peach pit was actually a mass that had doubled to the size of a small watermelon overnight. I can still feel his sympathy, concern and caring as he guided me through those horrendous moments on the phone discussing what needed to happen next.

Later, our pediatrician was with us at the hospital praying with and for us and trading jokes with Chase. I have lost count of the people who have said “I wish my doctor was like him,” or “There are not many pediatricians who would do that,” or the scariest one of all, “My doctor would say it was something viral if he couldn’t find anything and tell me to come back in 48 hours if he wasn’t feeling better.”

Chase was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma – a rare form of cancer – that doubles in size every 24 hours. I was told that if we had not brought him when we did, he would no longer have been with us in 48 hours. The weight of the tumor would have crushed his lungs.

Such an Important Role

As a parent, it is your responsibility to care for and protect your children. However, you should feel positive that your pediatrician will be a strong support to you during your child’s growth and development.

There are several factors to consider before choosing the person that will play such an important part in the rearing of your child. Go to your friends, see who they use, and get their opinions. Do not choose by popular vote alone. Not everyone gets along the same and the truth is, all doctors have different personalities. Personalities clash. Make sure that you can talk to your doctor about anything pertaining to your child. You should never leave the doctors office feeling like you or child was not heard or that your child is just another patient. If you feel that way more than once, it may be time to look for another pediatrician.

All doctors are busy on a day to day basis, but most will let you schedule at least a 15 minute appointment to sit and talk to them and ask a few questions.

My doctor saved my son’s life by listening to him and knowing him. I saved my son’s life by choosing the right pediatrician. Find the right one for you by having them meet all the requirements that are important to you. It may just save your child’s life, too.

Finding the Right Doctor for Your Family

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an online pediatrician referral service (aap.org/referral) to help you locate a doctor, but referrals from family and friends can’t be beat. Identify two or three pediatricians who you want to meet in order to discuss:

Office hours: In addition to regular hours, does he offer weekend walk-in hours?

Appointments: How long does it take to get an appointment and what is the policy on bringing more than one child to an appointment? How long will you wait to be seen once you are there?

Calling the doctor: Many pediatricians have a call-in period set aside each day to take questions. Others let nurses take calls for them. If you are seeking personalized care, be sure to ask about this.

Comfort zone: Do you “gel” with the pediatrician? Is he easy to talk to? Is he warm to your child? Do you feel like he listens to you and wants to take time for you and your child?

Emergency: Many doctors tell patients to go straight to the emergency room in an emergency, but find out how accessible your doctor will be in case you need to discuss your child’s health.

Checklist

  • covered by health plan?
  • conveniently located?
  • how often is he on-call?
  • medicine vs. shots?
  • what hospital affiliation?
  • how long in practice?
  • board certified?
  • does he make housecalls?
  • how long are visits?
  • how are claims handled?
  • what if you disagree?
  • are there special policies?

Jennifer Dunn is a mom residing in Murfreesboro.

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