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Parents: How to Choose a Pediatrician

Choosing a pediatrician for most parents is a big decision. Whether you're a first-time parent or have your very own lion's den, nothing is more important that making sure you have found the best healthcare provider for your child, and there are so many factors to take into consideration. Today, Parents Ask expert Elizabeth Pantley offers tips on how to decide:

Q:  I'm 7 months pregnant and have been interviewing several pediatricians. I'm sure I'm being overly neurotic but I would love some simple way to help whittle it down and make my decision. What are key factors and things I should be looking for? 

A:  During the first few years of life, your baby will have frequent visits for routine checkups and illness, so selecting a healthcare professional you trust is important.

Decide which type of healthcare provider
Different types of healthcare professionals are qualified to care for your baby:

A pediatrician is a medical doctor with specialized training in caring for children from birth through adolescence.

A family physician or general medical practitioner (GMP) is a physician who is educated and trained in family practice, which is medical care that covers every member of the family for well and sick care.

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and training. Nurse practitioners often work in partnership with a licensed physician.

Once you’ve determined what type of professional you would like to consider, find prospective doctors through these sources:

♣    Recommendations from friends who have children
♣    Your obstetrician
♣    Your local hospital’s referral service
♣    Medical schools and medical directories
♣    The American Board of Pediatrics (

Determine your insurance company’s requirements

Check out the rules of your insurance policy prior to choosing a care provider. You may be required to have your selection approved in advance. 

Consider your parenting philosophy

Choose a doctor who has a similar philosophy with regard to important parenting issues, since most parents turn to their pediatrician for advice and guidance on more than just health-related issues. While this similarity in outlook is not crucial, it certainly makes for a more complete and enjoyable relationship that allows open conversation.

Take the time to interview prospective doctors
Most medical professionals are happy to provide a brief interview meeting at no charge. This gives you an opportunity to meet the doctor and ask questions. Here are a few tips to make this a productive event:

♣    Make an appointment.
♣    Arrive early and observe the waiting room and staff.
♣    Be prepared with a brief list of questions.
♣    Stick to your most important topics.
♣    Refrain from small talk or lengthy explanations.
♣    Remember that your main purpose is to listen, not to talk.

After your interview...

Consider the answers to these questions to help you make your final decision:

♣    Is the office conveniently located for you?
♣    How long did you have to wait in the waiting room?
♣    Did you feel good about the office and staff?
♣    Did the doctor listen thoughtfully to your questions?
♣    How willingly and thoroughly did the doctor answer questions?
♣    Do you feel comfortable with the doctor’s specific child-rearing philosophy?
♣    Did you feel that you could freely ask questions?
♣    Did the doctor appear knowledgeable and current with information and advice?
♣    Would you feel comfortable bringing your child to this person for care?
♣    Would you feel confident having this doctor handle an emergency with your child?


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