Before your baby gets here, there are so many things to do – so many checklists to check off. But, arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing a pediatrician. It’s a pretty big decision – your pediatrician will serve as a resource, a confidant, and a partner in your baby’s care. In my opinion, choosing a pediatrician should be like buying a house. When house hunting, you have characteristics of your dream home in mind – some are nonnegotiable and some can be comprised. Choosing a doctor should be similar. But, how do you know what to ask and where to start? Below are four steps to finding the pediatrician that is right for you and your baby.
Actually, before the tips, I want to intro with this – to me, a child should have a pediatrician – not a family doctor. What’s the difference? Education. Pediatricians spend their time in medical school focused solely on children. They are pediatric experts. On the flip side, family doctors learn about the entire lifespan and are licensed to care for every age group. So, while family doctors are still physicians and some do a really great job caring for kiddos, I think the easiest way to know your child will have a provider that is knowledgeable in all things kids is to choose a pediatrician.
Okay, one more thing – don’t be afraid of nurse practitioners in a pediatric office. Could I be slightly biased because I’m a pediatric nurse and work with amazing nurse practitioners? Maybe. But honestly, most nurse practitioners working in a pediatric office have years of pediatric experience as both a nurse practitioner and as a nurse (and trust me, you learn SO MUCH as a pediatric nurse). Also, nurse practitioners in an office setting never work without a physician present. So, if a situation arises where either you or the nurse practitioner feels uncomfortable, care can be transitioned to the physician.
Okay – now on to the tips.
1. Get referrals from family, friends, and online review sites.
A good way to get a feel for different pediatricians in your area is to ask people you trust. And believe me, people will be glad to tell you how much they love their pediatrician (or if they don’t and are looking for a new one too). When we were choosing my son’s pediatrician, I asked many of the nurses I knew that lived around me because I knew they would have similar questions and values. Also, type in something like “pediatricians near me” into Google and read the reviews. Create a list of your top 3 or 4 providers.
2. Narrow down which providers are in your insurance network.
After you make your list, check to see which providers are in-network with your insurance company. It’s not worth picking a pediatrician that will cost you $300 a visit. Finding out who’s in your insurance network is pretty simple. You can either call the company or go online and to their website and search for pediatricians in your area.
3. Ask to visit and tour the different offices.
Once you have your final list, ask to tour the office. Most offices offer new parent night, so make sure to take advantage of those. Even if they don’t, most offices will allow you to come tour because they know how important the decision is. While you’re there, look to see if they have sick and well waiting rooms (bonus if they have a newborn room). This may not seem like a big deal, but well waiting rooms come in handy when you’re taking your kiddo in for a well-check in the middle of respiratory season. It’s also important to note the distance each office is from your house because you’ll be there multiple times the first year.
4. Ask questions!
When you schedule your tour, ask to speak with the provider on your list (or multiple if they are in the same office) and the office manager. Before you go, create a list of questions that are important to you and rank them from most important to least.
Will my child have a primary provider, or will they see all the providers?
Who will my child see if my provider is unavailable?
Do you have weekend hours?
Do you have walk-in hours (no appointment needed)?
Who will answer after hours if I have a question, or if I’m worried about my child?
Do you offer lactation support?
After you’ve completed the four steps, you’re all set to use that information to pick the pediatrician you feel is the best fit for you and your baby. Make sure to let them know you’ve chosen them because they will want to know when your baby is born. And remember - you’ve got this!