Finding a Pediatric Care Provider

Ped1One of the many to-dos during pregnancy is to find a care provider for your baby. It’s a good idea to meet and interview a few practitioners sometime in the third trimester (most providers are willing to do this—you may want to consider how future care may be with someone not willing to meet with you). The provider you choose is someone you’ll likely be seeing many times in the next year and for years to come.  You want to make sure you select someone whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

General Schedule for Well Child Visits in the First Two Years

For Health Foundations mamas, we recommend that a pediatric care provider see your baby in the first week or so of life.  After that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended schedule for well-child visits in the first two years are:

  • by 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1 year
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years

Well-child visits are important times to check in about your baby’s health, growth and development.  They are also key communication and education opportunities.  During these visits you can learn about and discuss issues such as normal development, sleep, nutrition, parenting practices, safety, diseases, and more.  The provider will do a physical examination, recording your child’s head circumference, weight, and height, and checking the heart, lungs, stomach, hips, head, ears, mouth, skin, etc..

Before Meeting Providers: Questions to Consider

Prior to these meetings, you may want to think through what is important to you in a pediatric care provider—

  •  Do you have strong opinions on issues like circumcision, parenting, antibiotic use and vaccine schedules? (If you are not sure, you may want to do a little research into these topics to familiarize yourself with your options.) Do you want someone who is knowledgeable about natural medicine or a proponent of alternative and complementary care?  You may want to find a provider that shares your beliefs or, at the very least, will respect your decisions in regards to these issues.
  • What is important to you in your child’s care provider in terms of access and availability?  To answer this question, you may want to imagine the case when something urgent comes up after normal business hours, maybe on the weekend or at night—what do you want in a provider in this situation?  How easily can they be reached?  How quickly can you be seen?  What if you have a non-emergency question after-hours, how easily can you reach someone?
  • How about bedside manner?  Do you want someone with time to sit and answer all of your questions?  Do you want someone who can get you in and out of the office quickly?  Do you want someone who educates you about issues or do you just want their streamlined recommendations?
  • Do you want a family doctor that can see the whole family?  Or someone who just sees kids?  Do you want a larger practice or a smaller practice and why?  (There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to each).
  • How far will you have to travel to see this provider?

20 Questions for Potential Providers

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The following are some questions you may want to ask potential pediatric care providers. You may wish to highlight those that you care about and add to this list other questions you want to ask.

  1. What is your background and experience?  How many years have you been practicing?  Why did you get into pediatric care?
  2. What do you like about your job?  Do you have kids of your own?
  3. When we schedule visits, will we always be seeing you or will we be seeing other providers?  If the latter, how many providers are on staff?
  4. What is after-hour (evening, weekend, holiday) access like—for questions?  For urgent visits?
  5.  How quickly can we be seen for urgent/non-urgent issues?  Do you have same-day appointments?
  6.  How easy is it to get a hold of a doctor with questions?  Do you accept questions by email?  Do you have an on-call paging service?
  7.  What is your philosophy on breastfeeding? Do you have a lactation consultant?
  8.  What is your philosophy on immunizations?
  9.  What is your practice (conservative, liberal) of antibiotic use for common infections?
  10.  How long are most appointments (including well-appointments)?
  11.  What percentage (roughly) of your appointments start on time?
  12.  Do you have separate sick and well child waiting areas?
  13.  What is the first visit with baby like?  Where will the first visit take place?  Do you offer home visits?
  14.  What hospitals/urgent care facilities are you affiliated with?
  15.  What are your specific areas of interest when it comes to baby care?
  16.  Do you take my insurance?
  17.  How do you feel/how knowledgeable are you about "alternative" medicine?
  18.  What are your recommendations on parenting and baby’s sleep?
  19.  How important is patient education to you and in what ways do you facilitate this?
  20.  How important is preventative medicine to you and in what ways do you facilitate this?

After the Interviews

After a few interviews, consider how you felt in each provider’s office—

  • Did you feel relaxed and comfortable in their office?
  • Did you feel good asking them questions or did you feel discouraged?
  • Did you feel heard and understood?
  • Did you feel rushed?
  • Did they answer your questions to your satisfaction?
  • Did the provider show interest in you and your family?
  • Do you feel competent in their knowledge and skills?
  • Do you trust them?
  • What does your gut tell you about this person?
  • Are they the kind of person you want to call in an urgent situation?
  • Do their philosophies of care match your needs and desires?
  • What did you think about the office and the other staff?

Remember that you can always try out a provider and see how you feel about your initial visits.  It’s okay to change providers at any time.  You may want to do another round of interviews before you decide to make a switch.

Happy searching!