Establishing who will oversee your baby’s health and development is an important task to check off your pregnancy to-do list. If all goes well, your family’s relationship with your child’s doctor could be long-term — from the day he’s born until he steps into adulthood. Your child’s doctor will evaluate his growth and development, flag potential developmental or health issues, educate you about caring for your little one, administer immunizations, care for your child when he’s sick, and oversee care if your child develops a complex illness.
Whew, that’s a big job, which makes it extra important to find a doctor you trust and connect with. But how?
We’ve broken down the process into three areas to focus on:
1) Get Recommendations
A great place to start is your network of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or any parents you know and trust. You can also get recommendations from your ob-gyn or midwife, your insurance or healthcare plan, or (if you’re in the U.S.) this handy tool provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Keep in mind that pediatricians aren’t the only doctors qualified to care for your child. A family doctor can also do the job.
Start getting recommendations during your second trimester (or before) so you have plenty of time for the next two areas.
2) Get a Feel for Who They Are
Once you have 2 to 3 recommendations, spend some time answering the key questions below. You can do this by talking to the people who recommended them, reading information online, and setting up brief in-person interviews.
- Board certified? At a minimum they need to be. In the U.S. this means they have completed medical school and three years of residency. For pediatricians, residency is solely focused on children, and for family doctors it covers multiple ages and areas of medicine. Some doctors have additional certifications. Being a Fellow of the AAP (FAAP) or American Academy of Family Practice (FAAFP) shows that the doctor is likely up to date on the latest research and best practices.
- Covered by your healthcare plan?
- Trained or interested in any subspecialties or specific areas of child development?
- Aligned with a certain parenting philosophy?
- Warm, engaging, and good at listening, communicating, and answering questions?
3) Get a Feel for Where and How They Work
When you visit the office to interview a potential doctor, keep these questions in mind:
- Is the office convenient to visit? Consider the distance from your home, as well as parking (the last thing you want when your child is sick is to be sitting in traffic or navigating a tricky parking situation).
- Which hospital(s) are they affiliated with, in case your child needs hospital care?
- What are the billing procedures?
- Are they independent or part of a group? Being part of a group can have advantages, like colleagues being able to see your child if your doctor isn’t available.
- Can they accommodate same-day appointments if your child is sick?
- What is the average wait time once you arrive at the office for an appointment?
- Are there separate waiting areas for sick and well children?
- Do they have evening and/or weekend hours? If not, you might need to rely on an urgent care center or hospital emergency room for after-hours care.
- If you call the office with a question, who will call you back? The doctor? A nurse? Another staff member?
- In general, does the office environment seem organized and friendly?
Remember, it’s great to maintain a relationship with the same doctor throughout your little one’s childhood, but it’s more important to feel comfortable with and confident in your doctor. If any point you don’t, consider making a switch.