A friend of mine who’s expecting her first child this fall recently asked me how on earth to go about finding a pediatrician. Apparently her OB was no help, and since she doesn’t have any mom friends where she lives, she feels kind of lost. I can relate, because several years ago I was in a similar boat, and it took lots of digging to find my pediatrician.
I hit up friends and neighbors for recommendations, eliminated those who were too far away or didn’t take my insurance, and eventually narrowed my choices down to several local offices. From there, I visited the two or three practices I was interested in, spoke to the doctors, and went with the one who gave me the best vibe. And I have to say, I really lucked out, because I think I found a fabulous doctor.
Here are some of the qualities I most appreciate:
1. She’s cautious without being alarmist. As a perpetually nervous parent, I need a doctor who can be reassuring, but I also don’t want one who’s too reassuring. My pediatrician is the type who’d rather send a patient to a specialist than run the risk of neglecting a potential issue. On the other hand, she’s the type who, in the same breath, is able to put the problem in perspective and explain her logic for not just ignoring or waiting it out.
When my son managed to pick up a tick during a weeklong vacation in the woods, she recommended starting a course of antibiotics right away. Since it can take weeks to test a tick for Lyme disease, she didn’t want to just sit back and wait. Another doctor, she explained openly, might’ve taken a different approach and delayed treatment until getting that lab report, but she felt that the risks of untreated Lyme disease in such a young child outweighed the risks of taking one potentially unnecessary course of antibiotics. More importantly, she educated me on the issues of not treating my son without freaking me out in the process. In the end, that tick did test positive, so we were glad we took her advice.
2. She takes the time to listen and discuss my concerns. Pediatrician offices tend to be busy, and I understand the need to keep patients flowing in and out. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being rushed out of an appointment. Thankfully, this never happens with my pediatrician. Quite the contrary—she sets aside time during checkups to answer questions and talk about whatever’s on my mind.
3. She errs on the side of extra follow-ups. At one point a few years back, my son had a series of ear infections—not unusual for a small child, but a bit concerning nonetheless. When I came in for his third infection in less than twp months, our pediatrician insisted on a recheck a few days after completing our antibiotics. In the past, she’d simply given us a prescription and told me to call if I had any concerns, but in this case, she felt it best to be more proactive. She’s taken this approach on other occasions, and I’m definitely a fan. I’d rather take the time out of my schedule and pay a few extra co-pays than risk not truly nipping whatever the issue happens to be in the bud.
4. She’s part of a group practice. Growing up, my pediatrician’s office was a perpetual madhouse. My mom still tells me stories of how she’d sometimes wait for hours on end just to see our doctor, who was the only physician at that particular office. When it came time for me to look for a pediatrician, I knew right away that it was important to find one who’s part of a group practice. This way, there’s always a backup on hand if my doctor is out or completely overbooked.
5. She’s realistic. My pediatrician understands that as parents, we all have limitations, and her philosophy and advice reflect that attitude. During my son’s 3-year checkup, we were discussing mealtime and nutrition, and she presented me with some guidelines on what foods my son should be eating. But then she followed that up with a very helpful, “But of course we all know that toddlers can be picky as hell, so really, just do your best.” I’ve been seeing our pediatrician for over three years and not once have I ever felt judged.
For all of you parents out there who aren’t happy with your pediatricians, my unsolicited advice is to jump ship and find someone who has the qualities you’re looking for in a doctor. For better or worse, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending a lot of time at your pediatrician’s office through the years, and you deserve to feel good about the person in charge of your child’s care.