Newborns - Choosing the Right Pediatrician

Choosing a good pediatrician is understandably a source of concern for many parents. They know their newborn will need one from time to time. And, when the baby needs a doctor, rapid quality care becomes a high priority. Fortunately, there are simple guidelines that will help you find just the right one.

No one size fits all. Even among highly competent physicians there is a considerable variety in personality. Choosing one that suits you is important for a number of reasons. You'll have questions and some doctors will make you feel rushed, others are more patient. You'll have to call them at odd hours. Do they provide care willingly or reluctantly? Will they get back to you right away, or hours later?

After you've narrowed the field of candidates, you'll want to cover some basics in a face-to-face interview. Basic screening could be done via phone or email, but you'll want to meet at least the three final ones on your list. Although, some do get lucky and find just the right one the first time out!

Naturally, you'll examine their degrees and certificates. Not all medical schools and/or residency programs are created equal. It makes a difference whether a doctor trained at the Mayo Clinic or did field work in Africa. Both have their strengths. Are they board certified in pediatrics? Any qualified pediatrician, as opposed to just a family physician or general practitioner, will be. Are they a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics? This is standard, but not universal.

You'll want to know with what hospital they are associated. If the choice comes down to a close call between two, this could be a deciding factor. Hospitals have differing policies on insurance and their own 'feel'. Some are simply closer to home than others. All these things can help you decide. Will the person you choose see your newborn while he or she is still at the hospital after delivery? That tells you something about the level of care and interest in individual patients.

You're not limited to one pediatrician, and in fact you may be referred at times to a specialist. But your primary care physician will (and should) usually be one person who sees your baby consistently. He or she will become familiar with your baby. That experience counts for something.

In a group practice, who covers for the primary physician in his or her absence? Try to meet that person. When they do refer you to a specialist whom would it be? Try to interview that person as well. The same goes for support staff. Is there an RN in the office who specializes in pediatrics?

Finally, you'll want to sound out the candidate on such issues as immunization. Are they in favor of vaccinations, or opposed to them? What schedule do they follow? What approach do they take to issues of diet and nutrition?

Your obstetrician is a good source for a recommendation, of course, as are friends and family. Some do double-duty, of course. Your local hospital is another good source for references. If you've exhausted those obvious choices, you can try a few good websites that may list pediatricians in your area.

American Academy of Pediatrics:
American Board of Pediatrics:
The Health Pages:
The Doctor Finder:

You'll find information about the pediatrician's training, specializations, accepted insurance plans and more.