Choosing a doctor for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make. You can find many guides to finding a pediatrician online, in addition to talking to other parents and people in your area.

Here’s how to scout out a good pediatrician, from a pediatrician.

Looking for a good pediatrician

  • A good starting point is the Find a Pediatrician referral tool by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Look for the initials “FAAP” behind the pediatrician’s name, which stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and indicates that the doctor is board certified.
  • Ask your peers who they take their kids to see. Do they like the doctor? Does the child?
  • Search online. Many great pediatricians have websites. Doctor rating websites may be helpful but are often biased.

What to ask (your friends about a prospective doctor)

  • Does the doctor prescribe an antibiotic for every single illness? If so, cross the doctor off the list. Many pediatric illnesses are the result of viruses, which don’t need an antibiotic.
  • Does the pediatrician take time to educate the parent and the patient? What about disease prevention? Is child development (and growth) important? The answers to all of these questions should be “YES.”
  • Does the doctor listen? Does he/she try to get to know you and your child (on a deeper level than what’s on the computer screen)? Is he/she “kid-friendly”?

Find out what the front office and nursing staff is like

  • If the doctor is great but the staff is difficult to work with, the relationship may sour quickly. Great doctors care that their patients are treated equally well at the front door, in the exam room and on the phone.
  • Ask how prescription refills, phone triage questions and appointment scheduling (and rescheduling) are handled.

Find out the doctor’s availability

  • Is it important to you to have a doctor who admits to the hospital or has weekend, evening or holiday hours?
  • Find out the doctor’s typical weekly schedule. If you can’t ever get in to see the doctor, that’s a problem. Who else is in the call group? Are you comfortable seeing another doctor within the group?
  • Most pediatricians offer same-day appointments for acute illnesses, especially for babies and young children. Make sure you won’t have to wait a week if your child has a fever!

Interview prospective pediatrician(s)

  • Ask to tour the office and meet the doctor(s) and staff.
  • Ask the doctor what his/her philosophy is regarding treating patients. Doctors should be practicing “evidence-based medicine.” Find out what the doctor’s strengths and special interests are within pediatrics.
  • You will want to connect with your child’s doctor. It helps to try to find someone who will connect with your child, too. You want the relationship to be a partnership.

Remember, doctors are not perfect. Find one who is honest and you feel comfortable with to guide you along the way.

Takeaways

  • Look for the letters “FAAP” behind your pediatrician’s name. This means they are board certified.
  • Ask around for recommendations from people you trust.
  • Interview your candidates to make sure they line up with your preferences.
  • Talk to the staff too—a difficult staff can make doctor’s visits challenging.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. How to Choose a Pediatrician.

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