How to choose a pediatrician

Giving birth has evolved. Now people are taking charge of their birth story and making more informed decisions about their care. That includes choosing a pediatrician.

Back in the “old days,” you went into the hospital on a horse and carriage, were knocked out and woke up with a baby. You didn’t pick a pediatrician, you got whomever was on call that day and that was that. No research, just hope for the best.

Now, we know better, so we do better. Most people make careful choices about where they would like to deliver, what kind of birth they prefer (if baby cooperates) and who their pediatrician will be. Pediatrician’s offices have time built into their busy schedules for appointments for new parents to “interview” them. They hold meet and greet nights at the office and local hospitals, and they have Facebook pages where you can see what kind of office you are getting. They have different cultures per se, and you as a parent, get to choose what is best for your family. 

Questions to consider when choosing a pediatrician

Do you want a solo practice where the doctor calls you from a cell phone but is only open 9-5? Do you want the office that has 15 providers and you never see the same person twice, but is open at 7 AM and closes at 9 PM? Most people want the best of both worlds. How do you choose?

What do you want and need from your pediatrician? How will you know what you are getting? The first stop for most of us is a Google search. Where is the closest office, what are their hours and who works there. What does the website look like? Easy to navigate? What hours is this office open? How quick can I be seen? Do they take my insurance? Does anyone answer the phone? Can you book appointments online? Do they have a Facebook page? Where did providers get their training? Are they nice? 

It’s common to see posts in the local Facebook mom groups from parents looking for provider recommendations and which offices to avoid. It’s the age of the internet, and decisions are made right there on smartphones, instantly. However, making your own judgement about a practice is best, given that your particular goals may be very different than other people’s. 

Is there an on call provider or nurse that is available when the office is closed?

Besides the obvious is this person a good medical provider and know what they are doing, there is lots to think about. 

According to Healthy Children, one question you should have for your pediatrician’s office is “What is the doctor’s policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in the office who can answer routine questions?”

We nurses know that this is a very important question. You as a parent need to know that there are nurses available to chat with when you have questions about your child, whether it be a brand new baby, toddler or teenager. These little humans don’t come with an instruction manual! Nurses and health care providers are basically like walking, talking kid manuals. Make sure your office has these human manuals available 24/7. 

As a mom of three, one of my biggest concerns is “Can I get in touch with a real person right away.” I am not one who enjoys waiting for a call back. I don’t have time for phone tag. My peaceful moment to chat when I make the initial call can turn into a loud and chaotic cry fest at any moment, especially with a sick kiddo. I am a nurse, but also a mom, so I want to be able to get medical advice when I call or text the office. It’s that simple. 

I also want to get an appointment when I need one. If I have to wait until tomorrow to see someone, or 1 hour to talk to someone, and I’m worried, I will likely end up at urgent care. Like many parents these days, I’m impatient. 

That being said, not everyone is impatient (LOL OK OK we all prob are). It’s important to think about what matters most to you and your family. 

Location of your pediatrician’s office

How close is this office to your home or daycare? Are the hours convenient? If your new office is 1 mile from your house, but closes before you get home from work, then it is likely not the best choice for you. Your new office needs to be accessible. Do you drive? Can you get there by train? Can you walk there if you have no car? Is there parking? What things stress you out– let’s avoid those things! 

What hospital is your pediatrician’s office affiliated with

Another really important question is to know where your child’s new provider is affiliated. Will they send you to your preferred hospital if you need emergency care? If you don’t like the hospital they are affiliated with, or they can’t access records from your hospital of choice, then maybe you should pick a different office. It is important to know that you will get the best care, and emergency care is part of that care. Make sure you are comfortable with emergency care choices that your new pediatrician’s office will be recommending and potentially admitting your child to. If you have no preference on what hospital you would go to if there was an emergency, then move on to something more important to you.

Does your office have labs or imaging

Can your office draw necessary lab tests (aka drawing blood) or conduct imaging on site, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs? This is good to know for when your child needs to get routine lab work or needs any special testing or imaging such as x-rays or ultrasounds. Will you have to drive 20 min with a screaming 3 year old who just got a flu shot and doesn’t want labs too? Or can you walk across the hall and get it done asap. 

Another thing to think about is how frequently patients in the practice are getting labs done on and how old those patients are. I have a hard time watching someone struggle poking my children for bloodwork, but if the person drawing labs is experienced then it makes the whole process that much easier. If you are lucky, you won’t need more than a few routine labs and this won’t be an issue!

Is your new office supportive?

Are the people in the office nice? By nice, I mean, how were you greeted? Do you feel supported when you call? What kind of triage is available? Will your provider call you if you want to talk to them? Will the nurses give you home care advice? Will you be brought in for every concern? Do the people in the office make you feel cared for? 

An important aspect of health care is trust. In order to build trust, you must have a relationship with the people that give you the information. Feeling that your needs and concerns are important is the first step in developing trust. As a patient or parent, it is important that your health care providers listen to you, and validate your concerns (or explain to you in a clear way why you are worrying unnecessarily 😂 ). 

Physician rating and review sites

Consult online medical review sites to see ratings and opinions from other parents who take their kids to this pediatrician office. There are a lot of these sites to choose from, so be sure to compare a few to help get a full picture of what reviewers have to say. This is an important part of any pediatrician selection process, but it is only one factor in your overall decision making process. 

You can do this! There are lots of really great providers. You will figure out which one is right for you and your child. 

And as always, if you have health questions, or you’re not sure whether an appointment is required, feel free to chat with one of our nurses!

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, tell me about eczema treatments and causes. How to check for head lice in kids, and how to use a lice comb. How to rehydrate an adult who has the stomach bug. Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.