Searching for a pediatrician is not an easy task.
Finding the right doctor for your Baby is as much intellectual as it is gut instinct. To decide, though, requires asking the right questions. This is why you should have a list of questions to ask a prospective pediatrician even before you start looking for one.
Before the Interview
Nearly all pediatricians offer complimentary, “getting to know you” appointments so you can basically interview the doctor to see if they’re a good fit.
Before the interview, find out as much as you can about the basics and the logistics of having them as a pediatrician. There’s plenty of information to find on their website before even calling the office to schedule an interview appointment.
Is the pediatrician a member of the AAP?
You will typically find an “FAAP” after their name. If it’s not clear on the website, add it to your list of questions to ask during the interview.
Do they have specialized training?
If you want any sort of specialized training, or you expect your child to have special needs, make sure to check their training online as well.
Is the office close enough?
This may not seem like a big deal now, but when you have very sick child that 30-minute drive to the doctor’s office can seem like forever. Some doctors are worth a little extra drive, so keep that in mind. But, in general, it’s nice if the office is within 20-30 minutes of your home.
What are the office hours?
This is often listed on the website, and it’s good to know if they only have business hours or if they take appointments in the evenings or on weekends. Depending on the flexibility of your job, it may be crucial to get those nighttime, after work appointments.
Does the practice accept insurance? What plans? If not, do they offer payment plans?
Again, this question is crucial. If you can’t afford to use anything but your insurance, it would be heartbreaking to find your “dream” doctor only to realize they’re not covered under your insurance. If you want to be super thorough, when you call in to make your appointment ask if you can send them your medical insurance ID card so they can confirm that they’re under your plan.
Now for the interview…
Questions to Ask a Prospective Pediatrician
How long have you been in practice? Do you have any kids?
It’s often comforting to know that the doctor’s been practicing for at least several years, or that they have children of their own.
How long does a typical check-up last?
Ideally, you should get at least a 20-minute appointment. Anything less than that will be too rushed, especially when you’re bringing in a toddler!
Do you make house calls?
It’s good to know, just in case.
Do you (or your staff) answer emails? Do you offer any hours outside of normal office hours?
Basically, you want to know how to get a hold of them when Baby has a funny sounding cough keeping her from napping well, or something like that. It’s not quite an emergency, so no need for an emergency room, but maybe Baby is just uncomfortable enough to warrant a phone call to the pediatrician.
Is there a nurse line to call for any basic, new mom questions?
How do you reach someone when your question is informational? The doctor doesn’t have to be on hand for every single question. A call-in nurse line, maybe?
If Baby is sick, how long does it usually take to get an appointment?
If it takes a week to schedule an appointment with the doctor, that pediatrician may just be too busy for you.
How are urgent cases handled?
What if it is urgent enough that you want to see the doctor right away? Does the doctor accommodate same-day or walk-in visits?
What hospital(s) are you affiliated with?
If you have to bring your child into the hospital, you’ll want to research the hospital and its staff. Does your insurance cover services at that hospital? Is there 24-hour visiting? If Baby is admitted, can parents stay overnight? Sticking with the hospital the pediatrician is affiliated with may help smooth things along in terms of treatment.
When Is the first appointment after Baby’s born?
If you’re birthing at a hospital, will the doctor go to the hospital or do you go to the doctor’s office? If the plan is to birth at home or in a birthing center, will the doctor come to you?
What are your childcare philosophies?
Ask them about everything from feeding (Breast vs. bottle? Baby-led weaning or pureed foods)? Vegetarian or WAPF?) to diapering (Cloth vs. disposable,? Elimination communication or potty training?). Don’t forget sleep training (cry-it-out vs. gentle sleep guidance) and circumcision (if you’re having a boy).
Are you open to alternative medicines? Delayed vaccine schedules?
By alternative medicines, we’re talking anything outside of prescription and/or Western medicine. For example, if you’re comfortable just giving your little one some prune juice for mild constipation you don’t want a doctor who will scold you for not coming to them first and getting a prescription drug! Yes, prune juice can be considered alternative medicine?
Also, in an effort to ease effects of too many vaccines at once for a young child, many parents are turning to delayed vaccination schedules. It means more appointments with the doctor, but the shots are more spaced out and there’s fewer at each appointment. If this is something you’re interested in, is the doctor open to a conversation about it? Or do they go straight into the risks, into how it’s a horrible idea, and how it’s something you should never, ever consider?
Does your office offer breastfeeding support?
Do they have a staff lactation consultant? If not, can they recommend one?
After the Interview
When you leave the doctor’s office, take note of the following:
Did you feel comfortable in the waiting area?
Was it clean? Were there clean, gently used toys and books? Do you know how the staff handles the sick kids when they arrive?
How did you feel about the staff?
Were they friendly? Helpful? Caring and kind to your child?
How did the other patients seem?
Does it seem like they’d been waiting for a long time?
How long did you wait to see the doctor?
If the doctor was very late, were they gracious about it and apologetic?
Did you “click” with the doctor?
Were they open to your questions? Responsive? Open and honest? Did you feel comfortable talking to them about everything that concerns you? Was it a real, give-and-take conversation or did the doctor just tell you how things should and must be done?
What does your gut tell you?
Can you see yourself going there over and over again in the future?
As mentioned above, choosing a pediatrician is as much instinct as it is intellectual. We hope this checklist of questions to ask a prospective pediatrician helps you find your Dr. Right!
Featured image source: www.goodtherapy.org