Is There a Doctor in the House?

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One of the scariest parts of preparing for the arrival of Bean Man and Gracie was choosing a pediatrician. It’s not that it’s necessarily a hard decision to make, but it is an incredibly important one. We have had two particularly significant events involving our pediatricians and both have shaped how I choose and interact with our doctors.

First, when Bean was four months old, he was hospitalized unexpectedly. I try to keep our family’s health issues private, so without going into too much detail, he was having trouble breathing and was in the hospital for a week. It was incredibly stressful and made me so thankful for the pediatrician we had chosen. You never want to think about your baby having health issues, but at least if you are left facing them, you will know you have chosen a great pediatrician to help guide you.

The second experience with pediatricians that really impacted us was not necessarily a health issue, but a logistical problem. When we first moved to Orlando, we chose a pediatrician close to where we were living. But when we moved across town, we kept our pediatrician thinking that it would be easier than trying to change doctors again. It was a huge pain. Any time the kids were sick (which happens fairly often because they are in daycare), I had to haul them an hour away to the doctor and then an hour back to our house. Basically, it was a half a day affair for the kids to have a doctor appointment. For basic, quick immunizations, I had to take a half day off of work. It was such a pain!

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Based on our experiences, here are a few things that I looked for when we switched pediatricians to a practice closer to our new house:

1. Reputation of the doctors–I scoured message boards online for feedback from real families about doctors in my area, and while I don’t put a whole lot of weight behind message boards, it was a good starting point. It gave me a handful of pediatric practices to begin researching. Once I had about five practices in mind, I went to each of their websites and read the profiles of each doctor. Even though I prefer to see one doctor so that they get to know my kids, in large practices (and even medium or small ones nowadays) it is pretty safe to say that you’ll see other doctors at some point. I wanted the majority of the doctors in the practice to be established and respected in the medical community. One thing that really attracted me to the current practice where we go was that several of the doctors were on the board of the two local hospitals in our community.

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2. Hospital affiliations– You’ll want to make sure that the pediatrician you choose makes rounds at the hospital where you are delivering. So, if you have a specific hospital in mind for your delivery, ask the pediatrician if they are affiliated with that hospital. Also, make sure that the pediatrician is affiliated with whatever hospitals are closest to you in the event of an emergency. That way, if you have an emergency with your child and must go to the hospital, you know your pediatrician (or at least their practice) will be making rounds there, in the event that your child is admitted.

3. After hours clinic– We’ve had three pediatricians so far, but our current one is the only practice that has had an after hours clinic and IT ROCKS MY SOCKS, Y’ALL. As many ear infections as Gracie got last year, I would have missed so much work just to take her in for a five minute appointment where they confirmed her ear infection. But with the after hours clinic, I could wait and take her after work. While we’re talking about hours, let me tell you something I ran into that really bothered me at our last pediatrician’s office. Their office didn’t open until 9:00am, closed for an hour during lunch, and then closed every day at 4:00pm and at noon on Fridays! It was IMPOSSIBLE to reach them! With my work schedule, I was always calling and getting their voice mail. Be sure to check not only the after hours clinic hours, but their daily operating schedule, too. You should be able to reach them all day, so be sure to ask when you interview what their policy is on calls received after hours. If there’s an answering service, do you speak with a live person or a machine? And if it is a real person, is it a nurse or an answering service? You want as much contact with a real, live nurse and/or doctor as possible. In those first few months with a newborn, middle of the night calls are almost a guarantee, so make sure you know what the practice’s policy is on that.

4. What’s important to you– Before you interview the pediatrician and their practice, make a list of things that are important to you. Maybe that’s breastfeeding or formula feeding, maybe it’s choosing to not vaccinate your children, maybe it’s a vegan or vegetarian diet, maybe it’s co-sleeping or baby wearing. Whatever it is that is a non-negotiable with you and your family, put that on your list. And then speak up when you interview them. Ask them directly, “What is your practice’s view on co-sleeping? How do you feel about formula feeding?” Being upfront and asking them ahead of time will save you later on when you are constantly dealing with a pediatrician who is trying to change your mind about something that is important to you. There is a pediatrician to treat every kind of family. Make sure you find the right one to treat yours.

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5. Confident guidance– For this one, I have no idea how you can identify this quality in a doctor ahead of time. But the best pediatrician we’ve had had this quality and it made all the difference for our family. Our doctor in Connecticut had this amazing ability to calm me down when I was worried or nervous about some symptom or illness that Bean had by telling me what a great mom I was, how wonderful I was at taking care of him, and by asking me what I thought our next step should be. That sweet doctor made me feel like I was not only an active part of my child’s care, but was an equal part of the team. When Bean was in the hospital, she came in to see me one afternoon and put her hand on mine, smiled a huge, happy smile, and said, “Look how calm that baby is in that scary hospital bed! You must really be calming him down! You’re such a good mommy! Tell me, how has Michael’s day been today?” Now, she had his hospital chart right in front of her, but she wanted to hear ME. So, I told her, and she said, “Well, that all sounds normal to me for his condition. Does that seem expected to you? Would you expect him to be better or worse now?” And I told her that, no, I thought he seemed to be doing fairly well. “Excellent! I think so, too! Now, do you think we should give him something to help him sleep, or do you think he’s sleeping pretty good on his own, Mommy?” I told her I thought he seemed pretty calm to me, but that maybe if he woke up in the middle of the night the nurse could give him something. “I like that plan! I agree that he could probably sleep well himself, so let’s let him try. You know that baby so well! He’s a lucky guy!” Seriously, to a new mom, you have no idea how empowering the conversations with that doctor were. She made me feel like I was doing it right, which is such a rare feeling for a new parent! If you can pick up on this trait in a pediatrician during an interview, SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE!

You’ll never regret a doctor who makes you a part of the team and process. Choosing a pediatrician, like many parts of being a new parent, can be intimidating and overwhelming. But when you find the right doctor for you and your family, it will be worth the effort.

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8 thoughts on “Is There a Doctor in the House?

  1. Rita

    This post could not come at a better time! I have my first pediatrician interview tomorrow. Thanks for the tips.

  2. We just picked our pediatrician last week!! Great timing for this post and ours would pass your test!

  3. I agree on all fronts, except #2 for delivery. We chose our OB and hospital for delivery when we lived in Manhattan, then moved to Brooklyn about a month and a half before our little guy was born. Our Brooklyn pediatrician didn’t do rounds at that hospital, because it was so far away. Instead, the hospital had an on-call pediatrician, who did the necessary reviews, signed the forms, etc. when Jacob was born. Two days later, we took him to our pediatrician in Brooklyn without a problem. It would have been nice to have the same doctor from the start, especially if something had been wrong, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. In fact, we’re planning to do the same thing when we deliver our next baby in January. At that point, it was more important that we had an OB we knew and trusted. The hospital ped was good for us. To each her own!

  4. I have been lucky enough to find a pedi with my 13 year old and have been able to stick with him since then. After hours appts do rock and one thing I would add is look for a doc with your philosophy of medications. My husband and I believe that it is best for the kids to and ourselves to take as few pills as possible (not including vitamins and calcium). Some people want antibotics or breating treatments as soon as possible. there are docs that lean both ways. Neither is bad it is just personal preference and security level.

  5. Susan S

    After hours clinic are the best. Our doctors office offers one and we have had to use it several time. We also lost our first pediatrician when he abruptly left the practice, but because we had found another doctor we loved just as much through the after hours clinic it was an easy transition. My son loves our doctor because he is always wearing cowboy boots! It’s the little things that count sometimes.

  6. Our pedi has an after hrs and Sat clinic which is awesome. Also there are 8 docs in the practice so there is always someone available. When I first pick a doc for my son, I picked one close to our home, but they were awful. Weird schedule. No after hrs. No on call. The icing on the cake was when my son was four months old and he had a fever of 102. He was a preemie so he was still under careful observation. I called on a Monday afternoon expecting them to see him the next morning at the latest. They wouldn’t see him until Friday. So I switched to a doc that was further away but much more flexible. I’ve never looked back.

  7. Nikki

    Even though I’m only a few months pregnant, I feel like I should start searching now. Unfortunately we live quite a distance from where I will be delivering, but I was not going to lose my OB when I moved across town, so I will be probably be using the hospital pedi. I know that it’s probably a tough time finding the “perfect pedi,” but now that I’ve seen your guidelines I feel a bit more prepared!

  8. How timely – thanks! We’re in the process of choosing a pediatrician right now, and as soon-to-be new parents it is definitely so scary. We have some appointments to meet pediatricians books, and I’d done some of this, but (as always), I’m so glad to hear your perspective and feel like I’m at least somewhat of the right track. (Also good to know that I was right in thinking it’s awesome that one of our top choices has evening/weekend appointment hours!) Thank you thank you thank you!

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