Choosing a Pediatrician
Babies and children are not just small adults - their healthcare needs are different. So, it is important to find a healthcare professional that can provide specialized care. As a baby grows and develops, a healthcare provider is essential for well baby and child care as well as when illnesses or injuries occur. A pediatrician, family practice physician, or pediatric nurse practitioner can be your baby's primary care provider. The medical specialty dealing with children is called pediatrics.
A pediatrician is a physician who specializes in the care of babies, children, and teens. All medical doctors complete four years of medical school. To become specialized in the field of pediatrics, they must complete three additional years of training. Then, a pediatrician can become board-certified, which means he/she has passed a comprehensive test given by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Many pediatricians work together in a group practice with other pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners, who are nurse practitioners with additional training in pediatric care. (A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with an advanced degree - such as a Master or Doctorate degree - who is licensed to practice medicine on his/her own.) Other members of the healthcare team may include office nurses, laboratory technicians, and staff who handle the administrative details and billing.
Pediatricians care for children from newborn to adulthood, providing well baby and child care, including immunizations. Pediatricians can also help parents with issues such as growth and development, feeding, and discipline. Nearly all children have illnesses or injuries as they grow, and pediatricians provide this care, too.
Choosing a pediatrician is an important part of preparing for a new baby. There are many things to consider including a pediatrician's training and experience, as well as the office location, hours, and routines.
Finding a pediatrician is not hard, but you need to begin as soon as possible. You can ask your obstetrician for names, and talk with other parents about their pediatrician. It is often a good idea to meet with two or three prospective pediatricians before your baby is born. Many pediatricians offer a special time for parents to come and visit the office, learn about the physicians and staff, and ask questions. There may or may not be a charge for this visit.
Listed below are some things to consider when choosing a pediatrician:
- Is the office near your home or place of work?
- How long does it take to get there during rush hour?
- Is parking convenient?
- Does the practice have more than one office?
- Are the same pediatricians at the same offices all the time?
- What are the office hours?
- Are there weekend and/or evening hours?
- How do you make an appointment?
- How long does it take to get a well-child appointment?
- How long does it take to get a sick-child appointment?
- What about payments and billing? Is this pediatrician listed as a provider on your insurance plan? What hospital is the pediatrician affiliated with? Is this compatible with your insurance plan?
- How long do you have to wait in the office before you are seen?
- Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
- Does the office staff seem friendly and interested in children?
- Ask about the pediatrician's training and experience. Does he/she have a specialty or area of interest? Is he/she board-certified, and if so, has he/she re-certified recently?
- Ask about the pediatrician's opinion on immunization, use of medications, particularly antibiotics and over-the-counter medications. Does he/she prescribe medications over the phone?
- Will your child see the same pediatrician for all visits?
- What happens if your child gets sick in the night or on weekends? Who do you call?
As you talk with the pediatrician and the office staff, you will develop a sense of whether they have the same philosophy of child raising as you do. You can also talk with other parents to find out their experiences and recommendations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a referral service for help in finding a qualified pediatrician or specialist.
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