Once again I find myself in the throws of searching out a new doctor/a for my children. And since this will be our 5th pediatrician in six years, I think I've learned a few things about how different an individual doctor's philosophy and approach to care can be!
I never interviewed our first pediatrician, he came recommended by my OBGYN who told me he took his own kids to that practice, so at the time, that was good enough for me and we just jumped on in. (this one recommendation should NOT have been good enough btw for more than a few reasons, but I was a lamebrain back then, ya'll already knew that, right?)
Speeding right along, we moved to another area in our big city and had no recommendations to go on, so I started the process of interviewing pedi's myself. And since that time (and two more moves, ha!) I have interviewed somewhere in the ballpark of 12 pediatricians. Whew! That's a docena of docs!
Think about this! This nerd will see your child(ren) at the worst moments of their health for about 18 years, potentially, and when you have a sick child or a serious concern your nerdy-self won't be top notch either- so you need someone you can trust, someone you don't feel like you're inconveniencing every time you call, someone that treats you like a capable parent, doesn't talk down to you and supports your choices as the ultimate authority of your family. It's hard to get to know a stranger that well in a short amount of time, but some simple and some not so simple questions may help save you (and them) some time and stress in the process!
Here's a list of 21 things you may want to ask your pediatrician before deciding to hire him or her to care for your children. Some of these you can observe while in the waiting area, some answers can be found from the practice's website or by asking the office staff and some are for the doc personally!
FOR THE PEDI-
1) Why did you decide to specialize in pediatrics? aka- Do you like children or you just couldn't hack it as a neurosurgeon?
2) How long have you been practicing? And are you a Board Certified Physician, belonging to the AAP* (ABFM** for family practice docs)? And do you keep up on its current recommendations and interests?
Most pediatricians these days are AAP, but maybe you don't want yours to be, or maybe you do. This answer matters to me as a birth professional because I see you AAP HQ in Chicago and what you're up to and I need my doc to know what's going too.
3) Do you have any other specialties or areas of interest?
4) With which hospital in the area do you have privileges?
5) If the pediatrician is in a solo-practice: Do you have a back-up doc for when you are not available? If in a group practice: Who will my child see for sick visits?
6) Where are specific tests, x-rays, blood work, etc., done?
7) How do you handle emergencies and/or concerns outside of office hours?
8) How long does a check-up typically last in your office?
This should be at least 20 minutes. C'mon we're humans, right?
9) When do you do newborn well check visit? (specific time of day? and how often?)
10) What is your stance on the following topics? -- breastfeeding, circumcision, alternative/holistic medicine, vaccinations, infant sleep habits/co-sleeping, CIO, growth charts, flu shots, antibiotics, milk (from cows), starting solids, adoption/foster parenting and surrogacy, home birth, attachment parenting/discipline, consent from child for procedures, abortion, Tylenol and other OTC meds for children, vegan/vegetarian and other diets, LGBTQA-specific interests, chiropractic practices, childhood allergies, ADHD/ADD, childbirth- pathology or normal body function? (and so on!) Whoa- deez are some HOT topics! You may not get to ask ALL this, prioritize YOUR deal breakers and go from there. We all have different ideas and approaches to parenting which is, for the most part, amazing and fascinating and totally fine! You need a doc that aligns with you and your family. Don't know where you stand on this stuff? Do some research- reading good books and talking to friends and you'll start to get a feel for what's current and then- YOU decide for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.
11) What's your favorite thing about coming to work each day? aka are you a real human?
12) What's the biggest challenge you face in your practice? aka- are you a real human?
13) Do you have children? What's your favorite thing about being a parent? What's the hardest thing about being a parent? aka- are you a real human?
14) How do you balance work and home life? What are your hobbies? aka- do we have anything in common as real humans?
TO BE OBSERVED:
15) Are there separate waiting areas for sick and well children?
16) Is the office clean and child-friendly?
17) Is the office staff nice and professional?
18) How long did you wait to be seen? How long are others waiting? (Write down the specific times and expect that IRL it'll be longer than today's interview visit.)
Maybe #15-18 don't matter to you, that's cool, but if they do, OBSERVE and write down your observations and initial impressions.
TO ASK THE STAFF OR READ ON THE OFFICE WEBSITE: Important things to know!
19) What are the clinic hours and weekly schedule and is the office location good for our family?
20) Does the doctor have a text, email or phone service you can use for non-emergent questions?
Some ppl dig technology, some don't. It can be very reassuring as a new parent, or seasoned parent to quickly check-in (and know that doc will get back to you within a few hours) when you have a question, rather than taking to the Facebook groups a picture of your son's odd rash. <--I've definitely never done this. lol. Or worse, Googling your child's symptoms and finding out that it's either totally normal or she's got Ergot and is basically dead already.
21) Does this practice take my insurance or have payment plans? (Do the docs they refer to take my insurance or have payment plans?)
BONUS- A question to ask yourself! What does my intuition telling me about this chap or lassie? The answer to this one matters above all the other answers. If your potential pedi has "all the right curves in all the right places" but you sense he's pandering or sycophantic - hightail it outta there! You are the boss, the doctor is your employee- being able to work together and establish a trusting relationship, could literally mean life or death! I pray that it doesn't. ever. come to that but there's enough to worry about while creating, growing and caring for small humans (that you hope will turn out ok), you don't need antagonistic or stressful doctor's visits on top of it. 'Aint nobody got time for that!
Well- I hope this list has been muy helpful! Did I forget anything? What things have you asked pediatricians or other doctors? What's important to you about the person you trust with your family's health? Tell me in the comments!
*AAP= American Academy of Pediatrics
**ABFM= American Board of Family Medicine
*If you enjoyed reading "21 Questions; 'Choosing a Pediatrician' Edition", let me know by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet and connect with me online!