How to Choose a Pediatrician
Pediatricians have special training in the health and illnesses of children from birth through adolescence and into the young adult years, and most are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics after passing a comprehensive examination covering all areas of health related to infants, children, and young adults
How to Find the Names of Qualified Pediatricians
The American Academy of Pediatrics and HealthyChildren.org can supply you with names of board-certified pediatricians in your community through our Find a Pediatrician tool.
*Note: Only Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics or “FAAPs” are listed in our Find a Pediatrician tool. Only board-certified pediatricians can add the designation “FAAP” after their names, which means they have reached the highest status of membership in this professional organization.
Most local/county medical societies provide referral services to pediatricians in their area who are taking new patients.
If you are located near a major medical center, community hospital, or teaching hospital, contact its department of pediatrics for the names of doctors in your area
With a list of doctors in hand, call the office of each. Explain that you are looking for a pediatrician for your child, and inquire about the doctor’s background and training, as well as general office procedures. If you are impressed with what you hear, arrange for an interview during which you can meet the doctor and ask some additional questions. It may be more convenient to do this interview by telephone
Here are some key questions to ask and things to consider during this first meeting:
What medical school did the pediatrician attend, and where did he or she undergo postgraduate and residency training? (Medical directories in many public libraries and online—such as the American Board of Medical Specialists Directory—can also help answer these questions.)
What are the doctor’s present hospital appointments? If it becomes necessary for your child to be hospitalized, where would he or she be admitted?
Is the pediatrician’s office conveniently located? Is it easily accessible by car or public transportation?
Are the office hours convenient for your own schedule? If you are a working parent, you may desire evening or weekend hours.
What is the doctor’s policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in the office who can answer routine questions?
Is the doctor in a group practice with other physicians? Does another physician cover for the doctor at times? Who handles phone calls when the office is closed or during vacations?
Do you sense a genuine interest by the doctor in the problems of your child, including particular health disorders he or she may have?
Do both the physician and the office staff appear amicable and courteous? Do they demonstrate compassion and patience? Or do you feel rushed in the office, as though the doctor is eager to move on to the next patient?
How are visits for acute illnesses handled? Can you make an appointment on short notice if your child needs to see the pediatrician because of a sore throat, cold, or a potential ear infection, for example?
Does the doctor communicate clearly to explain illnesses and treatments, and does the doctor make an effort to ensure that all your questions are answered?
In what managed-care programs does the doctor participate? What is the office policy regarding the processing of insurance forms?
What will be the fees you will be responsible for when seeing the doctor for sick visits, routine examinations, etc.? See Understanding Cost Sharing: Deductibles, Copayments & Coinsurance.
If your child ever develops a complex illness that requires he care of one or more specialists, will your pediatrician coordinate care among all the doctors providing treatment? See Your Child’s Medical Home: What You Need to Know.
How to Select a Pediatrician
Choosing a pediatrician for your baby is no easy task. After all, this doctor will help your little one through childhood vaccinations, nasty colds, and everything in between. But when should you start looking for a pediatrician, and what criteria should you focus on? Here are our top tips for choosing the best pediatrician near you.
When Should I Look For a Pediatrician?
Start looking for pediatricians while you’re still pregnant—preferably between 28 and 34 weeks along. “It’s important to have a pediatrician you’ve already met and respect, because you have enough going on after the baby is born,” says Evaline Alessandrini, M.D., a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
There’s also another benefit of finding a pediatrician early: Dr. Alessandrini’s recent study, which she co-authored, found that babies who see the same doctor for their first 6 months are up to twice as likely to receive important health tests before they turn 2. Sticking with the same doctor also prevents wasted time on things like “going over whether immunizations are up to date,” she says. “If you have a continuing relationship with a doctor, you have the time and comfort to go deeper.”
How to Research a Pediatrician
Searching for a pediatrician may seem daunting, but remember that you’re not trying to find “the best doctor in the world.” You’re simply looking for the most effective doctor for you, your partner, and your future child. Here are some tips.
Get references. Everyone has different criteria for picking a pediatrician, so you should collect at least three names from friends and coworkers. (If you’re short on preferred doctors, try the American Academy of Pediatrics’ referral site at aap.org/referral.) Also look into the hospitals that your candidates are affiliated with; you’ll want one that’s both convenient and reputable.
How to Choose the Best Pediatrician for Your Child
Parents seem to go to a lot of different extremes when choosing a pediatrician. Some do almost nothing and simply choose the pediatrician on call in the hospital when their baby is born or pick a doctor randomly from a list in the phone book or their insurance directory.
The Importance of Choosing a Pediatrician
Choosing the right pediatrician is more important than most parents think. While you can simply change doctors if you don’t like the first pediatrician you see, if your newborn or older child is truly sick, the first doctor you see could be making life-changing decisions about your child. Or they could miss a potentially life-threatening problem.
A common way for parents to choose a pediatrician is to get a recommendation from their friends or family members. This is probably one of the best ways, but when someone tells you that they love going to their pediatrician, be sure to ask why before you blindly follow them to the same office.
Choosing a Pediatrician
Although we like to think that things like cost and convenience should be secondary when making such an important decision, they can be very important when choosing a pediatrician. If the pediatrician you would like to see is not on your insurance plan or is an hour away, it may not be very practical to go to her office.
Although you can typically narrow down your choice of pediatricians by figuring out who is on your insurance plan and in your area, who is accepting new patients and getting some recommendations from friends and family, the best way to find a good pediatrician is to actually set up an appointment and meet with a few.
How to Choose a Pediatrician
When looking for a pediatrician to care for your baby, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to find someone both you and your partner feel comfortable with. So it’s a good idea to begin choosing a pediatrician at the beginning of your third trimester. Ask your OB and trusted family and friends for recommendations.
These questions can help you choose the right pediatrician for you.
Does this doctor have a good reputation?
What is this doctor’s training and experience?
Does the pediatrician respect my philosophy on breastfeeding and immunizations?
Does the doctor listen to me and explain things clearly?
Will my child see the same doctor every time?
Who covers for the pediatrician when he or she is not available?
Is my spouse or partner comfortable with this doctor?
Is the office staff pleasant and helpful?
Is the office location convenient?
How long does it take to get an appointment?
How long will my child and I spend in the waiting room?
Does the pediatrician offer evening and weekend hours? Who sees my child during these hours?
How are emergencies and after-hour calls handled?
What hospital is the pediatrician affiliated with?
Does my insurance cover this doctor’s services?
How to Choose a Pediatrician: What to Look For
Choosing the right doctor for your child is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for you and your baby. Sure, you’ll want to consider convenience and office hours: Is it close to home, are they open late or on weekends? What about expertise — where did they do their training, are they board-certified? Do they come recommended by friends and family? What’s their philosophy on things important to you?
It can help to look for a practice that fits into your life and can support you, too, by being there when you need them. You’ll want both convenience and quality care, from a doctor you can trust to be on your side through your child’s development and growth. A good pediatrician will be available to your entire family to offer advice from infancy through adolescence
A good pediatrician knows how to listen to you and your child. They understand the unique needs of parents and young families and can dispel myths, alleviate fears, and provide information you need — at the right time. You want someone who you can speak to honestly and collaborate with on the care of your child.
Consider the level of training of the provider who will care for your child. Are they board-certified in pediatrics? Do they offer specialized training in breastfeeding, child development, or other things that will meet your family’s needs? And does the practice have direct access to pediatric specialists, if and when they need them, for reference or advice?
Make an informed choice
Becoming a parent or growing your family is a time of huge transition. It can, at times, feel like a rollercoaster ride. But it’s all part of the process; the joys and challenges of being a great parent. And when your child is here, having the right pediatrician by your side can make all the difference in the world.