How to Choose a Pediatrician

4.15.2010
I will probably never forget my first experience at my OBGYN's  office. We were ushered into a room with Beverly - one of the office's clinical staff and essentially the gate keeper through which all expectant parents must pass before meeting a doctor.

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Beverly launched into her well-rehearsed spiel with a barrage of medical questions, paperwork, freebies, books, CD's, and magazines. How we withstood this onslaught of information I will never know. At the end of it all we stared blankly at one another with wonder in our eyes. What just happened? In the course of about ten to fifteen minutes we had given a complete medical history, signed papers related to circumcision, vacuums, forceps, and who knows what else. We had been instructed to read, listen to, and/or watch various media. We had even been asked what pediatrician we had chosen.

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What? Pediatrician? Were we supposed to have that figured out already??? Because we hadn't already settled on the future healthcare provider of our less than twelve-week-old fetus, Bev asked us just to pick one and gave us a list to choose from. Months later, I have no idea what our decision was, but I do know that I never want to relive that fifteen minutes of my life. We had chosen our obstetrican's office solely based on recommendations from friends and coworkers, and I have gradually realized over the last 9 months that that probably wasn't the best idea. Next time I will definitely be interviewing/visiting doctors before making my choice.

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Fast forward to today. At eight months pregnant and the impending entrance of our baby into the world growing closer each day, we decided to make a real and educated decision on pediatric care for Violet. Without Bev and her list. Here's how we went about making our decision:
  • Google. The first stop shop for as much information as you can get your hands on. We typed in pediatrician plus our zip code and a long list of providers appeared. We chose the ones within a reasonable driving distance to our home and started our list. 
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  • Facebook. (What did people do before technology?) I posted a status update asking for pediatric recommendations in our area. I got a huge response from the local moms on my friend list and saw some of the same names pop up over and over again. This narrowed our Google list down considerably. I will definitely not choose a place solely based on recommendations. I did this with my obstetrician and like I said earlier - I'm less than thrilled.
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  • Specific websites. I checked each practices' website for information. Some of the sites had Mommy Stork programs where they invited groups of expectant parents in to visit the practice, meet doctors, and ask questions. I didn't sign up for these simply because I was looking too late in the game. FYI it's best to look earlier than 36 weeks for a pediatrician!
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  • Telephone. It was time to move to actual conversation. At first it was very disheartening. The first two practices that I called were incredibly rude to me on the phone, and the third had an automated system that would NOT allow me to speak to an actual person. Lots of crossing off of the list happened here. The second round of calls went much better. Some offices acted like it was incredibly normal and natural for me to want to visit before the birth of my baby. At others it seemed to be a more unusual request. I managed to set up appointments with three practices that were within close proximity to our home, polite on the phone, and recommended by friends. 
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  • Back to the internet. This time to research questions that I should be asking during my appointment times with each practice. In case the offices weren't prepared with information for us, I thought it would be a good idea to have questions on our end. Here is a good list I found:
  1. Do you accept my health insurance plan? (usually this can be determined before your interview)
  2. What are the fees and co-pays for office visits?
  3. What are your hospital affiliations?
  4. What are the office hours?
  5. Will you visit my baby shortly after birth?
  6. Who handles emergencies during nights/weekends/holidays?
  7. Do you talk to parents over the phone or via email?
  8. How many other pediatricians are in the practice?
  9. Do the other in-practice pediatricians accept my health insurance?
  10. Are you a board-certified pediatrician?
  11. How many years have you been in practice?
  12. What are your professional affiliations?
  13. What are your feelings regarding: breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, circumcision, sleep solutions, antibiotics, immunizations and vaccines? (Add any other topic that is of particular importance.)
  14. What is your well-baby visit schedule like? How frequently would we be coming in for check-ups?

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    And I also found these questions to consider after the interview:
    1. Is the office conveniently located for you?
    2. How long did you have to wait in the waiting room?
    3. Did you feel good about the office and staff?
    4. Did the doctor listen thoughtfully to your questions?
    5. How willingly and thoroughly did the doctor answer questions?
    6. What was his attitude when he answered them?
    7. Do you feel comfortable with the doctor’s specific child-rearing philosophy?
    8. Did you feel that you could freely ask questions?
    9. Did the doctor appear knowledgeable and current with his information and advice?
    10. Would you feel comfortable bringing your baby to this person for care?
    11. Would you feel confident having this doctor handle an emergency with your child?
    The visits went very well. Here's how the three offices stacked up:

    Office 1 Impressions: (Had great recommendations from friends & coworkers)
    • Clean, up-to-date, and organized.
    • Separate sick & well waiting areas
    • Evening & weekend hours
    • Can call 24 hours for any question
    • Doctor was friendly, down-to-earth, easy to talk to 
    • Flexible on vaccination schedule
    • Comfortable with child-rearing philosophies
    • Stitches/minor injuries can be handled in-house
    Office 2 Impressions: (Good recommendations, closest location, best website)
    • One waiting room for all patients
    • Chaotic waiting room - people seemed to be waiting a long time
    • Lots of carpet and toys left me with a poorer impression of cleanliness
    • No tour
    • Evening & weekend hours
    • Doctor was friendly, but disorganized and seemed rushed and out of breath
    • Flexible on vaccination schedule
    • Skipped over child-rearing philosophies questions
    • No stitches/minor injuries in-house
    Office 3 Impressions: (Received the best & most recommendations from friends & coworkers)
    • Separate waiting rooms for sick & well, but looked very institutional and smelled funny
    • Totally empty waiting rooms - no people, no toys
    • Given a tour by office personnel. It was organized but long-winded
    • Patient rooms seemed very small, institutional, and only had thin partition walls.
    • Met doctors in passing but was not given time to ask them questions. They did not seem interested in meeting us.
    • Evening & weekend hours
    • Not flexible on vaccinations
    • Supportive of various child-rearing philosophies
    • Stitches/minor injuries could be done in-house
    Needless to say we are going with practice number one. Had we chosen a practice based only on recommendations, we would have gone with number three. Had we chosen based on location and website only, we would have gone with number two. I'm so glad that we decided to visit each office - it made a HUGE difference in our choice. It was a lot of work, but SO worth it when you consider how long you may be with the doctor that you choose. I am so happy with our decision!

    How did you go about choosing your pediatrician? 
    I'd love to hear any other tips that you have



        4 comments:

        1. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and we had the EXACT same experience as this - only we had Pat instead of Bev. I was totally freaked out at the time as well. Nice to know I wasn't the only one!

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        2. I just came across your Blog and wow that was a lot of work but glad you are happy with your choice! I love your home and the way you have decorated the nursery, too cute. Take Care, Catherine x

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        3. Great post, Lauren!! Thanks so much for all the info and glad you found the best pediatrician for you guys. Yikes, I'm scared to start this part of the process:)

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        4. Thanks for your super helpful post. We are very unhappy with our choice of pediatrician, and looking to switch. Because of insurance restrictions, it is going to be a little tricky . . . switching to another doctor in the same practice, so trying to figure out how to delicately do that!

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