Finding a doctor is hard. Not because good doctors are hard to come by; there are many good diagnosticians out there. It is finding doctor that takes time on you, a doctor that listens to your concerns and questions and addresses them in a way that is not rushed, not demeaning, and is thorough, is what is difficult. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the medical system today. Now, it is bad enough when dealing with these issues and your own health, but dealing with these issues concerning your child’s health is enough to make a parent scream. The process of finding a good pediatrician or family doctor for your child can be daunting, but if you interview the doctor and ask the right questions, you may be able to save yourself a lot of time dealing with a doctor with mediocre bedside manner.
Here is a list of questions you should ask a potential pediatrician or family doctor.
Do you have a separate sick and well waiting area? This is a very important point. Children, particularly infants, spend a lot of time in the doctors between immunization appointments and well checks. Subjecting them to a slew of people with various illness and flu is counterproductive.
How often do you clean the toys in the waiting room? Let’s face it, kids are gross. They pick their nose, stick things in their mouths, and god knows where their hands were last. The toys should be cleaned often.
Will you as a parent have 24 hour access to a doctor for those crazy questions or concerns that pop up at 2 am.? Is there a charge for after hours calls? Something weird will happen with your child in the middle of the night on a Saturday. It will happen. Having access to a doctor will give you piece of mind.
Do you have evening, weekend, and holiday hours? Kids get sick at all times….
If you choose to breastfeed a new infant, do they have a lactation consultant that you can speak to? Breastfeeding can be very difficult in the first 6 weeks. It is known that those new mothers with support breastfeed much longer than those without. It makes sense that a lactation consultant is available through the office.
Immunization schedules have become a concern for some parents. If they are a concern for you, ask the doctor if they will offer a modified immunization schedule or how they would feel if you choose not to vaccinate?
How do they feel about antibiotics with common infections (ie ear infections)? Some doctors give them no matter what, some choose to hold off and wait and see approach. Common infections like ear infections will often resolve themselves without antibiotics, and giving antibiotics can cause resistance and other problems such as nasty diaper rash, etc.
Is the practice large? How experienced are they? Are the doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants young? Do they have their own children? Answers to these questions depend on your personal preference.
Do you have same day sick appointments? How quickly do they fill?
How much time do you spend with well visits on average? Don't let them rush you. You WILL have lots of questions. They should schedule enough time so that you don't feel like you are an inconveinence to you.
Do appointments consistently run late (ask parents in the waiting room)?
Do they include both parents in the discussion (or do they favor one parent i.e. the mother)?
What are their standard procedures for healthy child checkups? Do they do a series of tests on the child's developmental status or do they just take what the parent says as evidence of their development?
How soon after the birth will they see the child? Will they see the child everyday in the hospital?
What is the doctor's attitude toward both parents working (if you choose to work)?
Does the doctor expect you to be a knowledgeable or does the doctor expect you to just take what he or she says as truth? Remember that this is a double edge sword. Of course we want to be knowledgeable and we know our children inside and out, however, just because we can read it on the internet, does not make us an expert. Medical school is 8 years of hard work for a reason. Of course, medicine changes so quickly, getting a second opinion or asking tons of questions to make sure that the doctor is up on all the research is important as well.
How often will you be able to see your doctor of choice if they are part of a practice?
What is their hospital affiliation? Make sure that this is a hospital that you feel comfortable taking your child to in the event of an emergency. Having your doctor be able to see your child in the hospital is important.
How long have they been practicing? Are they adding any other doctors to the practice?
How and where did they receive their training?
Do they give you proactive advice for disease prevention, or deal with problems when they arise?
Is the staff friendly and accommodating? This isn't a question, just something to look for.
How do they keep up with trends in pediatric medicine?
Do they offer a room just for infants? Will they give you time to breastfeed in the exam room if you so choose and not rush you out of the office? This helps alot after vaccinations to calm and comfort the child.
Do they make you feel stupid for asking additional details? Are they offended if you ask for a second opinion?
What are various ways that the pediatrician makes a child feel comfortable? Do they play games with the child or show the child how the stethoscope works? Do they explain things to the child? Or do they talk to the parent as if the child is not even there?
Sometimes, as parents, we feel strange asking too many questions of a doctor. We then defer to a doctor’s judgment, without trusting our own instincts or getting our concerns addressed. A good doctor will address your concerns, listen to your questions, and not make you feel like you are wasting their time. Some of the best doctors that I have seen truly take what a parent says to heart and knows that no one knows the child like their parents. Then they will do everything they can to address your concerns. By asking these questions of a potential doctor prior to or during the first visit, you will be able to determine quite quickly how comfortable you will feel with the doctor and whether or not this doctor is the right one for you.