While you may have taken your time before settling down to start a family, there are no blind dates for parents seeking a pediatrician. That’s too bad, since he or she plays such an important role in keeping your child healthy. So, what’s a parent seeking a long-term relationship with a great pediatrician to do?
While recommendations from family and friends can be helpful, everyone’s needs are different. The best way to decide if a pediatrician is right for your family is to interview them yourself.
According to Michael Wasserman, M.D., FAAP, of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Metairie, Louisiana, certification by the American Board of Pediatrics and fellowship in the American Academy of Pediatrics are minimum standards. Once you’ve confirmed that, ask where the doctor attended medical school and performed their residency. Do you feel more comfortable with an older, more experienced pediatrician, or a younger pediatrician who may be more up on the latest techniques? Does your child tend to like no-nonsense adults, or feel more comfortable with a nurturing approach? If you hope to see the same doctor for a long time, would your child prefer a doctor of the same gender?
Ask about office hours. How hard is it to get a same-day appointment? If your child gets sick at 3 a.m., who takes the call? Does the office utilize electronic medical record keeping? After Hurricane Katrina, Wasserman decamped to Baton Rouge. Because Ochsner keeps integrated electronic medical records, he was able to access all of his patients’ records, including those from specialists, from 80 miles away, and keep treating his patients.
Many parents these days have questions about vaccinations and the use of antibiotics. Is the pediatrician’s philosophy in line with yours? Do they explain their thought process? As they answer your questions, pay attention. When you’re worried, will this be someone you feel comfortable talking to?
When you do meet “Dr. Right,” remind yourself that this relationship is a two-way street.
“I wish parents would all come with prewritten lists of questions and concerns,” says Daniel R. Neuspiel, M.D., MPH, FAAP, FACPE, a pediatrician at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Like it or not, doctors are busy people. Show up a few minutes early so you can be waiting in the exam room by your scheduled appointment. If you have a concern you’d like to discuss out of your child’s earshot, call before the appointment. Remember that pediatricians run on a tight schedule, so be respectful of their time. And for goodness’ sake, turn off your cell phone!
Nobody’s perfect. But some matches are better than others. With a little research and a little luck, your family and your pediatrician will live happily ever after.