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Choosing a Pediatrician


Your pediatrician will help you care for and ensure the well-being of your child. You want to make sure that you choose well. And while many think that choosing a physician may not be as simple as decorating the nursery, it can be.

When To Choose

You should pick your infant’s doctor by the time you are seven months pregnant, just in case your baby is born prematurely (Karlsrud 1992). In addition, by this time of your pregnancy, you may find it difficult or uncomfortable to move around. You may also find it hard to concentrate on anything other than the anxiety and excitement of your unborn child.

How To Choose

With so many doctors available, choosing the right doctor can seem overwhelming. The following steps will help simplify the process and leave you feeling comfortable and satisfied with your decision.

Step 1: Ask friends and family members for recommendations.

By asking people you trust about doctors they trust, you can quickly gather four or five names. You may also want to ask your obstetrician or nurse-midwife for a recommendation. As well, you can obtain names from your local medical society or children’s hospital, your Lamaze instructor, and the national office of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Rosenthal 1994).

Step 2: Schedule consultations.

The best way to know if you are going to like a particular physician is to meet him or her. Call the names on your list of referrals and set up a time to come in and visit. Explain to the receptionist that the purpose of your visit is to ask the doctor a few questions to help you in your search. Many doctors will not charge you for this type of visit or may apply the cost to your first ‘real’ visit if you select him or her (Wood 1993).

Step 3: Ask questions.

Now that you have times set up to meet the doctors, you need to compile a list of questions to ask when you are there. Don’t feel embarrassed to take out the list and jot down a few notes while you conduct the interviews. The following are some suggested questions to ask:

  1. How available is the physician? If you and your spouse both work, it’s a good idea to find a doctor whose office is open later in the evenings and on Saturdays. As well, find out how long it takes to get an appointment and how you can reach the doctor after hours (Bosley 1993).

  2. What type of practice is it? Does the doctor have a private practice or work out of a clinic? If a doctor is in a clinic setting, you may end up seeing several physicians. Check to see if you can always schedule appointments with the same doctor (Hurwitz 1993).

  3. How quickly does the doctor respond to calls? If your child is crying incessantly and you call for some advice, it’s important to know how quickly you will get a response. As well, find out if it is the doctor or nurse who is responsible to respond to calls (Karlsrud 1992).

  4. What are the physician’s credentials? Many doctors will have certificates framed on the walls of their office. Ask to look at them. If the doctor’s name is followed by the initials “FAAP,” the doctor is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is board-certified. However, the initials “FAAFP” indicate that the doctor is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Only about ninety percent of these members are board-certified (Hurwitz 1993).

  5. How is payment handled? You may be a little uncomfortable asking this question, but it is very important. Some physicians require payment at the time of service. Others will bill your insurance company directly and then bill you for the remaining sum. Still others will expect a co-pay and for you to bill your insurance. As well, some offices will demand you pay in full, while others are willing to set up a pay schedule with you. It is also important to find out the fee for different services (Bosley 1993).

  6. Is the doctor affiliated with a hospital? Most pediatricians have hospital privileges, which means they have a right to admit their patients to a particular facility. This is important because before your baby is discharged, he or she must have an exam by a pediatrician. You may want to go to the hospital with which your pediatrician is affiliated (Wood 1993).

Step 4: Evaluate the office.

While you are waiting for your interview with your baby’s potential doctor, it’s a good idea to observe your surroundings. Many times, the way the receptionists treat the patient is similar to the doctor’s way of treating the patient. Is the waiting area clean? It shouldn’t be so neat that you constantly have to replace things your curious toddler moves. However, it is a doctors office, so it should be clean. Are there toys available for children of all ages? Toys or books can provide your child with a distraction while you gather your thoughts about what you want to tell the doctor (Hurwitz 1993). How large is the waiting area? There needs to be enough room so you don’t have to sit right next to someone else. You don’t want to go in with a healthy child and leave with a sick one. How long did you have to wait before being called back? While a thirty-minute wait may not seem long to you now, it’s not fun with a crying baby. Where is the office located? While this shouldn’t be the determining factor of your decision, it is something to be considered.

Step 5: Factor in personality style.  

Pediatricians need to see to it that sick babies get proper treatment and that well babies continue to thrive. This can only happen through good communication between the doctor and the baby's parents. The doctor has to rely on them to speak for their not-yet-verbal child, to voice concerns, and to ask questions. The parents rely on the doctor to give helpful, clear answers, advise them on how to keep their child safe and healthy, and to help them care for an ill child. The parties involved must be comfortable enough to be open with one another (Karlsrud 1992). Therefore, picking a pediatrician whose personality is compatible with yours is crucial.

Finally, trust your instincts. If you have all your questions answered but there's just something about the doctor that is bothering you, cross the name off your list (Wood 1993). You need to be comfortable and secure with the person you choose to put so much trust in. Your baby’s life depends on it.



Bosley, W. (1993). “How To Choose Your Baby’s Doctor.” Childbirth. 49-52.

Hurwitz, M. (1993). “Looking for Dr. Perfect.” Baby Talk. (5): 24-26.

Karlsrud, K. (1992). “Choosing Health Care for Your Baby.” Lamaze Parent’s Magazine. 89-91.

Rosenthal, A. (1994). “Ages and Stages: Choosing a Pediatrician.” Parenting. (12): 205-07.

Wood, S. (1993). “How To Find the Best Doctor for Your Baby.” Having a Baby. 24-25.


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