For those friends who seem to love their baby’s healthcare provider, ask specifically why they like that person or their practice. What is important to one family may not be as important to you. The same can be said if someone had a bad experience; be cautious about online reviews, people are much more likely to write about negative experiences than positive ones.
Ask your friends and family if they ever feel rushed during a visit, if the providers seem empathetic, and if they feel like they are listened to and heard. Gather all the information from the people you trust but choose the best fit for you.
Keep Care Close and Convenient
Choose a practice that is close to home, or work, or childcare, or all of those options, if possible, for convenience. Search for pediatric practices that work within your distance requirements, call to make sure they are taking new patients, and then schedule a visit if possible. At a minimum, you should be able to ask any questions you have about the practice over the phone.
Choose Your Preferred Practice Type
- What size is the practice? Small with one or two providers? Or large, and will you always see the same practitioner?
- Does the practice rotate you through all of the practitioners on staff?
- Does the waiting room or the exam rooms have separated “well” and “sick” sections?
- How long do providers stay with the practice? High turnover can affect the care your baby receives.
- What kind of office hours or “on call” services do they provide?
- Do they offer evening and weekend “sick” hours without an appointment? If you know you will only be able to see someone on Saturdays, make sure they have regular weekend hours.
- Is the waiting area “kid friendly”?
- When you visit the practice do you get a sense of warmth and welcome, or does it feel uncomfortable? Go with your gut!
Ask the Hard Questions
Health care providers are accustomed to answering these questions and should not seem surprised by your inquiries. Good communication is a crucial part of the relationship you will build with the provider you choose; how they respond to sensitive questions will help you determine if they support your beliefs.
After your initial visit with a potential pediatric provider, ask yourself the following questions:
- Was the provider open to answering my questions?
- Were they a good listener?
- Do I feel comfortable talking to this person about my child’s health?
- Does this provider’s philosophy of care match my beliefs and desires?
Some providers are affiliated with hospitals, meaning the pediatrician provides care in both a private practice office setting as well as the hospital. If your provider is affiliated with a hospital, it can be helpful if your child needs to be admitted to the hospital for any reason but is not a requirement of a good provider. Double checking the providers’ medical credentials is not a bad idea, and they are usually provided on the practice website.
Learn if the pediatrician you are interested in will be the one who sees your baby immediately after birth in the hospital (if you are having a hospital birth). Typically, your baby gets a visit in the hospital, and then another visit a day or two after you are discharged home.
If you are birthing outside the hospital, in a birth center or at home, try to schedule several pediatric appointments near your due date, and see your provider within a day or two of giving birth.
Ensuring Baby’s Health
Not only do good pediatric providers care for your baby as they grow, but they help you navigate the ups and downs of parenting. Pediatric providers are instrumental in helping with decisions that affect your child’s physical and mental health, sports, school forms, and medications. Set yourself up for success by getting an early start by picking the best pediatric provider for your family’s and children’s needs.
Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, RN
Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, RN, is a nurse scientist at Johns Hopkins Health System.
The information contained on this article should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your health care professional.