From the day a woman knows she is pregnant, she continues to make decisions that will affect her baby for life, such as choosing her name. To give your newborn the healthiest possible start, you are interested in finding a pediatrician who will take care of your child from the first visit until he or she becomes an adult. Here are some tips on how to find that doctor.
When should you start looking for a pediatrician for your child?
It is advisable to start the search about three months before your baby is expected to be born. Ask relatives, friends, neighbours, co-workers, and doctors you know for recommendations. Then, check the website of your health insurance to see if these doctors are included in your mé insurance provider.
If you’ve just moved, start by looking for a pediatrician on your insurance website or use the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Pediatrician Search tool.
Look at the opinions and ratings of each pediatrician’s patients, but exercise caution. As with all websites, the expectations and opinions of other people may differ from your own. Please ensure that website ratings or opinions can only come from real patients.
Of course, doctors are not the only people who care for children. Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Associates (PAs) also care for patients of a child or adolescent age. They have been trained to give injections, evaluate and diagnose health problems, and prescribe medications, doing many of the things that doctors themselves do.
Pediatrician or family doctor: how do they differ?
Most pediatricians, as well as office nurses and medical associates, see children and adolescents up to 21 years of age. Pediatric training focuses on treating people from birth to adulthood. Family physicians are trained to care for patients of all ages, from children to the elderly.
Both types of doctors have the same years of training, but pediatricians specialize in children. This provides them with an in-depth understanding of children’s medical needs, such as behavioral issues and how to care for a growing and developing bodies.
MD or DO: how do they differ?
Pediatricians can graduate from medical school with two types of degrees: MD (doctor of medicine) or DO (doctor of osteopathy). Both titles train physicians to diagnose and treat diseases and to prevent them when possible.
Programs leading to a DO degree tend to focus on a more holistic (“whole-body”) approach to medicine. The MD degree program approaches to medicine in a more traditional way. All professionals with MD or DO degrees must complete a full residency (practical and supervised training) before being able to practice medicine on their own.
Choosing a DO or an MD is up to you. Both have the same years of training and preparation. But you will want to make sure that your child’s pediatrician is board certified.
What does it mean to be “board-certified”?
When doctors complete their residency, they can take exams to obtain certification in their field, for example, in general pediatrics or in a pediatric specialty such as trauma. These exams are proposed by a board of directors in a field of medicine, such as the AAP, and are not easy to pass.
Interview pediatricians What should I ask you?
Most pediatric offices establish visiting hours for people who are expecting the birth of their children. Call to arrange a visiting time. During your visit to greet and meet a potential pediatrician for your child, take a tour of the office and speak with a doctor or nurse.
Some doctors offer group classes for expectant parents to learn about the practice and how to care for their newborns. Other doctors offer individual interviews. Many health insurances favor these types of prenatal visits or classes and cover their price. But, before you go, ask the pediatric office and your health policy.
Here are some of the things to consider as you decide if an office operation is right for your family. Make a list of questions to better organize your ideas.
- What are the office hours? Make sure the schedule fits your needs. For example, you might prefer a doctor who has visiting hours on the weekends or in the evenings.
- Does the doctor work alone, or is he part of a group? If he attends alone, who will cover the hours he is not available? If you are part of a group of doctors, who will see your child when the doctor is not available?
- Is the doctor affiliated with a pediatric hospital if there is one in your area?
- What is the office’s position on phone consultations?
- During office hours, are there certain hours set aside for parents to call and ask the doctor questions? Many pediatric offices have a nurse to answer parents’ questions.
- When office hours are over, how quickly do parents get answers to their questions on the answering machine? Does the office offer telemedicine, where video visits with a pediatrician or nurse can be done?
- Can you contact your child’s doctor by email? Does the office have electronic medical records, which facilitate the transmission of medical information about patients? Can parents access their children’s test results and health information online?
- If your child had a medical emergency, would their doctor take them, or would they be referred to an emergency room or urgent care center?
- What are the fees? Do they have to be paid in full at the time of the visit, or is it possible to split payments?
- If your child needs other care, how does the specialist referral policy work?
- What is the clinic’s vaccination policy? Are all patients required to be vaccinated following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization schedule?
- If your baby is not yet born, will the doctor go to the hospital to examine your newborn?
Aside from asking all these and similar questions, your visit will be a good time to see how the office works. Is the waiting room clean and suitable for children? Are the office staff courteous and considerate of patients in the waiting room and callers on the phone?
While you wait, talk to other parents. Ask them what they like most about the operation of the office and why they like the treatment and care of the doctor.
Does this doctor fit me?
After you’ve talked with your doctor and other members of the practice, do you think it will feel good to work with them? Is the doctor-patient and willing to explain things well, respectfully and tactfully? Does the doctor know how to listen? Will you be comfortable asking questions? Do you think the doctor would mind if you asked for a second opinion?
Do you share ideas with the doctor that are important to you? For example, what does your doctor think about circumcision? About breastfeeding? About alternative medicine or techniques? About the use of antibiotics and other medications? Remember that the idea is for the doctor to see your child for years.
Once you choose a doctor, do not throw away the information you have recorded about other doctors. If there were any changes to your health insurance, you could be forced to find another doctor. Or it may take time to find a doctor with whom you are comfortable.
Choosing a doctor before your baby is born will help you feel more confident in the care your little one will receive. Knowing that you have already chosen a good doctor will help you feel calmer and have a greater sense of control.