How Do I Find the Best Pediatrician for My Child?

Are you looking for the best pediatrician for your child? Here are some tips on how to find a qualified and trustworthy pediatrician to take care of your child’s health.

Article By:  Elaine K. Howley

Blog Source From : https://www.usnews.com/

Becoming a parent is both joyful and stressful. The arrival of a baby signals not only a shift in lifestyle and priorities, but also the need to care for another person in a way you may not have previously.


A pediatrician may be able to help you in this journey – and that’s why finding a good one you can work with for the next two decades or longer is so important.

What Is Pediatric Care?

Pediatric care, as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, in their 2017 Age Limit of Pediatrics policy statement, is a multifaceted specialty that looks after children’s “physical, psychosocial, developmental and mental health.” Pediatric care may begin before birth and typically ends sometime during young adulthood.

Previously, the AAP recommended that pediatricians refer patients to other primary care providers when they reach age 21. In 2017, however, the organization removed that upper age limit, noting that a child’s emotional and mental development progresses into young adulthood. The AAP posited that the age of 21 was an “arbitrary demarcation line for adolescence because there is increasing evidence that brain development has not reliably reached adult levels of functioning until well into the third decade of life.”

Regardless of the exact exit date, your child’s pediatrician will be with you every step of the way. Most patients see a pediatrician for routine exams and health measures as well as childhood vaccinations, treatment for common ailments and other general health care. During the first few years in particular, children see their pediatrician frequently, adds Dr. Lisa Hoang, a pediatrician with Mission Heritage Mission Viejo – Pediatrics, part of the Providence network in Mission Viejo, California.

Pediatricians can also offer support and advice on several areas, such as how to parent, how to manage your child’s specific medical needs and what to do if something goes wrong. In this last case, they may refer you to a pediatric subspecialist, who can treat the health issue.

A primary care or general pediatrician is similar to a family physician or primary care doctor. However, they may have more specific training in the needs of young patients, who differ from adults because of their rapid rate of development.

Read: Best Children’s Hospitals: Honor Roll and Overview.

How to Choose a Pediatrician

As they’re weighing factors for choosing a pediatrician, parents should consider training and certification status, says Ann E. Burke, professor of pediatrics and program director of the pediatric residency program at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio.

“I may be biased, but I think (board certification) is a good way of assuring the public that a doctor has gone through legitimate channels to meet a certain requirement,” says Burke, who is also a former chair of the American Board of Pediatrics, or ABP.

To become board certified, a pediatrician must graduate from an accredited medical school and then complete an intensive three-year residency program at one of the nearly 200 pediatric residency programs around the United States. To complete a residency program, pediatricians must complete training and pass several exams covering a wide range of specialty areas within pediatric medicine.

By the end of the program, pediatricians are well-equipped to deal with health issues experienced by an infant, child, adolescent or young adult. The ABP reports that more than 56,000 pediatricians across the country currently maintain certification to practice general pediatrics.

About 2,500 to 3,000 positions in pediatrics are offered annually to post-graduate year-1 students, or those in their first year after completing medical school, according to a 2021 study from the ABP. The study, however, notes that a looming workforce shortage threatens to make finding the right pediatrician for your child even more challenging.

You can check whether a certain doctor is board certified via ABP’s doctor search tool.

READ: Should Kids Take Multivitamins?

Finding the Right Fit

There are several factors to consider when looking for the right pediatrician. These include:

Logistical factors

When selecting a pediatrician, Burke says that “the first practical thing to do is to check with your insurance company.”

Along with finding out whether a pediatrician is in your insurance network, think about the office location and hours, says Dr. Kristen N. Slack, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Primary Care, Haverford in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

“Location of the practice is really one of the most important things,” she says. And it’ll take a little research to sort that out.

Within the Philadelphia area, for example, parents can search for CHOP-affiliated doctors by zip code, which can help determine “where they are in relation to your home so that you can pick somewhere that’s a short commute from your home versus work,” Slack explains.

Slack says you should also find out whether the doctor has weekend and evening hours, in case your child needs care outside of normal business hours.

In addition, Hoang recommends asking “whether the office offers same-day visits, a nurse advice line and a way to communicate with your child’s health care team and doctor.”

READ Did You Choose a Good Doctor?

Approach to care

Thanh-Tam Nguyen, a pediatrician and medical director at CalOptima Health, a community-based health plan that serves vulnerable residents in Orange County, California, says that in her opinion, “the best pediatrician is one who can apply evidence-based practices in the care of your child. The qualities that make a good pediatrician are humility, compassion, empathy and a desire for continuous learning and self-improvement.”

Determining which doctor embodies all those qualities can also take some work. For instance, when you call to make that first appointment, consider how the office staff treats you and whether getting an appointment is challenging. Burke says this can be a sign of how the practice treats patients and may assure you or send you back to the list to try the next doctor.

When you meet with the pediatrician for the first time, Slack says you should consider how both you and your child feel about the doctor. “Most pediatricians go into this field because they really enjoy working with children,” she says. “You want to make sure you find a pediatrician who really seems to connect and bond with your child.”

Connecting with your child can mean a number of different things to each individual, but “there’s someone out there for everyone in terms of doctoring style and communication style,” Slack says.

“Everyone has different priorities,” Hoang adds. And finding out what’s important to the pediatrician you’re considering can help guide your choice.

“For example, if breastfeeding is important to you, ask how the pediatrician’s office helps to support that,” Hoang explains. “Find out what methods the pediatrician uses to maintain communication with parents. Determine if the pediatrician has a relationship with the local children’s hospital and with the pediatric specialists or if they see newborns in the hospital.”

Nguyen recommends asking the doctor a series of questions, including:

  • What is your experience taking care of your patients?
  • Have you found your work meaningful and rewarding?
  • What is your availability to care for your patients?
  • What is your coverage for weeknights, weekends, holidays and vacations?
  • What is the appointment waiting time for a routine or urgent appointment?
  • What is the turnaround time to return a phone call or electronic request?
  • Do you cover care in the hospital or only in the office?
  • At what age would you transition my child to an adult doctor?

Nguyen also recommends having a look around the office space to determine if it’s clean, has an appropriate ambiance and how staff interact with one another, patients and their families.
While “medicine itself is all about science and facts and numbers,” there’s more to it than that, Slack adds.

“(You should consider) how a pediatrician applies (current knowledge and information) to the clinical setting,” she explains. “The doctor-patient relationship is more of an art, and I think finding someone whose style fits your own is really important.”

Word-of-mouth recommendations

Nguyen notes that the best pediatrician can often be found via recommendations from other parents. “However, I am hesitant to use the word ‘best,’” she says. “Medicine is an art, and medical care is a collaboration between the doctor and the child and their family. The patient-doctor relationship works best when both parties are aware and mindful of expectations.”

Talking with other parents can help you determine whether your goals and the provider’s line up. “If you’re new to the area, joining a parent’s group can be helpful,” Slack says. “It’s always nice to be able to learn from other personal experiences.”

Be sure to ask for specifics about why the other parent liked or didn’t like a doctor. “(But) take what others are saying with a grain of salt knowing that sometimes your own personality type might be a little bit different from someone else’s,” Slack says. “You might have a really great experience with someone who another parent didn’t click with.”

But in the end, you’ll need to trust your gut; there’s no replacing the rapport you may build with the doctor, Hoang says.

“A good pediatrician is one who is well trained, keeps up to date with (best practices), has good rapport with your child and is able to effectively communicate with you,” Hoang explains. “You can usually read about a pediatrician’s credentials on their website, but meeting the pediatrician and talking to them will help you get a sense of the patient-doctor relationship.”

After a few visits, Slack says, you should begin to get a “gut feeling about how this relationship is going.” If the fit isn’t there, it’s OK to move on and try another doctor.

She also recommends speaking honestly with the doctor about any concerns you may have. “If there are specific aspects of medicine that are really important to you, such as vaccination schedule or breastfeeding or if the child has any special medical needs, it’s also important to ask the pediatrician, ‘How do you feel about XYZ?’ to get some insight into their practice style with those specific things.”

Seeking Care for Your Child Is Important

Lastly, Hoang says that “finding a pediatrician is not a simple task. If you are expecting, start the process before your child is born. If you are changing insurance or moving, make sure you take time to search for a pediatrician as soon as possible.”

And if you lack health insurance, Burke says you should seek care for your child anyway. “Still call and ask or go to the nearest children’s hospital, and ask if there’s any way to find a pediatrician,” she says.

She adds that “most children’s hospitals and even some private offices have social workers and people who can help. Sometimes folks are eligible for things they’re not aware of.”

Most children’s hospitals won’t turn away a child in need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *