Finding the best pediatrician for your family can be a gold mine, perhaps even more than an OB or midwife. After all, these doctors and their staff could potentially be part of your life for 18+ years! That's a lot of appointments, consults and guidance from one person. Finding someone who jives with your personal health philosophy can make or break your many visits, so take your time, get recommendations and interview a handful of pediatricians in your community before making your final decision.
Over my five years of parenting, I've sat down to interview seven pediatricians. That number is more of a result of a move and insurance change than unworthy pediatricians, but in my meet and greets I've definitely learned what questions to ask before committing to a practice.
A bevy of basic, important questions to ask a pediatrician about their certifications and office procedures can be found online, but I've found these 10 questions tend to offer an inside peek into what life with their medical advice would be like.
What is your health philosophy?
If they can't answer this in a succinct paragraph, it's time to look elsewhere! For me, I look for keywords like "low-intervention," "parent-guided" and a variety of both Eastern and Western medical training. I don't need an alarmist (I worry enough!), someone who questions me (I know my kids better than anyone) or a doctor who is about endorsing every newfangled drug or treatment ("new" equals a short track record of success and no long-term research in my book).
How do you feel about breastfeeding, sleep, vaccinations, circumcision, discipline, etc.?
You won't be able to cover every parenting hot topic, but pick and choose what is most important to you and listen closely to their answers. Do they have a definite preference? Do they fall in the middle? Do they share any examples or research?
What areas of study or parenting do you have extra experience in?
It's impossible for pediatricians to be experts in everything, so feel free to ask what they enjoyed the most about their medical schooling, specialized seminars they have attended and ongoing research they are a part of. One pediatrician I interviewed had extensive experience with infectious diseases in third-world countries. Another was very familiar with milk allergies and intolerances due to his own son's experience. Another saw that my daughter was wearing a cloth diaper and immediately shared that her child had the exact same one!
Do you have children?
Some would say this is a must, but it definitely isn't a deal breaker for me. One of my favorite pediatricians was a recent graduate who had a variety of specialized training in alternative care for children. Although he had no children of his own, he had nieces and nephews and obviously spent the majority of his day around kids. He was a great fit for us!
How technological is your office?
Some offices function with phone calls and letters. Others have text messaging and email access. Neither is necessarily better or worse, but determine what would be easiest for you and your lifestyle.
Take note of their answer and research on your own if what they recommended is something you would choose too.
What supplements do you recommend for children?
Take note of their answer and research on your own if what they recommended is something you would choose too. I once had a pediatrician recommend a liquid vitamin for my six-month-old. I was shocked to find the first ingredient was high fructose corn syrup. No doubt that pediatrician and I were on different pages when it came to infant nutrition.
What percentage of your office is unvaccinated or on a delayed/selected vaccine schedule?
They may not be able to give you an exact answer due to patient privacy, but I would expect them to know a decent range with a short explanation of their vaccine policy and general philosophy.
What parenting books do you recommend?
Pediatricians are truly one of our greatest resources throughout our parenting experience (and one we're paying money for!) so gather their wisdom and make your appointment last far beyond the half-hour face-to-face with their recommended reading.
What specialists do you work with frequently?
Your child may have an acute need and thus you'd like to know who your pediatrician is partnered with. I often listen to see if they work with a nutritionist or a chiropractor. Feel free to guide the conversation with some background on your child and your past experiences.
Finally, for question No. 10, a short list of observations, rather than a question.
How long did you wait in the waiting room? Was there both a sick child space and a well child space?
Did the pediatrician greet your child when they arrived in your room? How was their interaction throughout the appointment?
What was your initial reaction of the pediatrician's nurse and other staff?
What brochures were displayed in the room?
What handouts or information did you leave with?
Most of all, once you interview and finally hire a pediatrician, give them a year to prove their worth to your family's medical resource team. People have bad days, offices run behind and mistakes happen, but if after that first year you're not truly happy with the service you're paying for, don't hesitate to begin the interview process all over again.