Heather Rahn-Guidugli, a first-time mom from Newport, began her search for a pediatrician at work. Her employer, Kroger, offers a “find-a-doc” program that let her research recommendations to find the best in the area. But after some homework, Heather realized that location was going to be a major factor in her search, since driving a newborn from Newport to West Chester wasn’t feasible. So she went with recommendations from fellow moms, and settled on Pediatric Partners of Northern Kentucky. “They were very flexible, and made it so easy,” she says. The practice’s common-sense approach also appealed to Heather, who pointed to their separate “well” and “sick” entrances as an example.
There are many decisions to make before your baby is born, but perhaps the most important one is the pediatrician you will see. Selecting a doctor with the right blend of professional qualifications and personal characteristics is important, and to get the best care possible, you also need to be able to trust and confide in the doctor. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind as you identify a pediatrician to be your baby’s primary care provider.
Finding the right doctor for your child is a matter of finding someone whom you can trust and who will invest interest in you and your family. Take the time to interview as many pediatricians as necessary until you are satisfied you have found the right fit.
There’s a gut-level judgment to be made when selecting the right doctor for your baby. At your initial meeting, are you comfortable with the doctor? If you feel condescended to, or if you are given an, “I’m too busy to answer your questions” kind of feeling, it is time to move on. Do keep in mind, however, that many doctors keep late hours.
Trusting your baby’s doctor is important, and you need to feel that he trusts you as well. Says Heather, “If you don’t get along with your pediatrician, then what’s the point? An adversarial relationship with your doctor won’t help your baby.” When your instincts tell you that you have found the right doctor for you, then satisfy yourself that the pediatrician has the training, experience and commitment to care for your baby … and perhaps another going forward.
Find out what hours your potential pediatrician offers. If both parents work, weekend hours might be helpful. Look into how the doctor handles after-hour emergencies and which hospital he prefers. And, if you call with a concern, how likely is it that you will be able to speak to him directly?
In order to find the right fit for your family, consider the following:
The services covered by your health insurance plan
Depending upon your provider, your choices may be limited. Most plans, either major medical or health maintenance organization (HMOs) usually cover the services of pediatricians.
The status of your child’s health from birth
If you have a child with medical issues, you should choose a pediatrician who is extremely aware of current medical research for your child’s particular condition.
The kind of services you want
Do you need a nurse line for easy access to fast answers? Do you want to be able to make appointments in the evening or on the weekends? What about emergency care? An in-office lab?
Location, location, location
While some families are willing to drive great distances to see a valued doctor, it is important to consider emergencies, too. Does your doctor practice at your local hospital? If not, where’s the closest hospital at which the doctor has privileges?
THE FINAL CUT
Now you can whittle it down to a few final factors:
Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for referrals. Who do they recommend? What have their experiences been like with the doctor? Are there any doctors they suggest you avoid? If you find a doctor you like, be sure to speak with someone else who uses him.
Meet the staff and the doctor
Do you feel a rapport with the office staff? Do they make an effort to provide an optimal experience for you? As for the doctor, ask about his training and education. Does he have a subspecialty? Is he board-certified? Discuss any medical concerns you may have. Is the doctor listening to you?
Finally, remember that your final choice of pediatrician is not irrevocable. If at any time you become dissatisfied, you can always start looking again for another Dr. Right.
Lynn Dean is a mother and freelance writer.