How to Find a Paediatrician You Like

How to Find a Paediatrician You Like
Contributor: Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Finding a paediatrician you trust — and who is reliable, accessible and conveniently located — is no easy feat. I know this because I am currently attempting to do so for the third time in the 10 years since my son was born. Over that decade, I found two doctors we absolutely loved and clicked with. We said goodbye to the first when we moved across the country several years ago, and we recently lost the second to a well-deserved retirement. The next doctor is still a search-in-progress — but here’s what I’ve learned to ask and consider when shopping for your child’s paediatrician.

Start with a referral

When it’s time to compile your list of potential pediatricians (ideally sometime in the second half of the pregnancy, or as soon as needed after that), start with your circle of family and friends, just as you would if you were seeking recommendations for a trustworthy auto mechanic or a favourite gym. Chances are if your best friend adores her paediatrician, you’re going to get good vibes, too.

If you’re new to an area or don’t have any nearby friends or family with young children, look for recommendations online, such as through local Facebook groups.

Consider the basic logistics

You might only have to take your child to the doctor once or twice a year, in which case, needing to drive a bit farther or wait in the lobby a little longer than you’d like wouldn’t be a big deal. But you’ll probably be going more than once or twice a year, especially when they’re very little and require regular check-ups and vaccinations — and are coming down with every last daycare or preschool germ they come into contact with. An office that is too far of a drive or keeps you waiting 25 minutes every visit is going to get very old, very fast.

So you’ll want an office that is convenient to get to from your home and/or their school, and you’ll want to ask what happens if you need to make a last-minute sick appointment. If the practice you’ll be going to has four different doctors, what is the likelihood that you’ll get your child’s paediatrician for a sick appointment?

My son’s first paediatrician was part of a practice like this, and although we were able to get his actual doctor maybe half the time we needed a sick appointment, we had to see another doctor in the practice the other half the time. And most of those visits were with the one doctor I really didn’t care for. (He always seemed to have availability; perhaps I wasn’t the only parent he repeatedly condescended to.)

You’ll also be able to tell in the first couple of phone calls how helpful the receptionist or the appointment scheduling system is, and wow what a difference a kind and efficient receptionist makes when you are stressed out about a sick child. In addition, you should ask what the protocol is for after-hours sick calls and how those will be handled.

Check that you share similar views

If you’re someone who adamantly opposes the cry-it-out method, you may not mesh well with a doctor who would be quick to recommend it. Patients and doctors can have differing views on things like how hard to push yourself to exclusively breastfeed or whether or not you want to circumcise. Consider which issues are most important to you and ask the doctor where they stand on them or what they typically recommend. If one view or another is of vital importance to you — or if you get the feeling the doctor you’re considering doesn’t at least respect your view — it’s time to move on and find someone who better aligns with your priorities.

You’ll also want to take basic personal preferences into consideration, such as whether you prefer a younger doctor, or someone with decades of experience, or a doctor who is of the same race as your child. Now that my son is older, I’m taking gender into consideration this time around. His first doctor was male and his second was female; but now that he is 10 years old, he’d prefer to have a male doctor. So that is a priority in our search this time.

Sometimes you need to give it a few visits

I did not automatically click with my son’s second paediatrician. She had a no-nonsense vibe in everything she did, whereas I thought I preferred a warmer approach. But the recommendation I received for her was so strong (this doctor had overseen the care of a child I know throughout a very serious illness) and the office was so conveniently located that I decided to stick with her for a while. She never became what I would call warm, but after just a couple of visits, I could tell she knew my kid. She understood his medical history and empowered me to take a more proactive and preventative approach to certain treatments he needed.

Over time, she could tell when something was off just by looking at him and talking to him. On our last visit with her (about seven years into his relationship as her patient), I took him in because of some foot pain. As she examined him and he told her where it hurt and how much, she turned to me and said, “Well, if he says he’s in pain, I know he’s in pain. He is not one to complain unless something really bothers him, so let’s get him to a podiatrist.”

I wouldn’t stay with a doctor longterm with whom we simply didn’t click, but sometimes it’s not evident right away that you’ve found the right fit. If all the other boxes are checked, I’d encourage you to give it a few visits before moving on.

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