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Finding a Good Pediatrician Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult!

I know it a feels a bit overwhelming, but finding a good pediatrician doesn’t have to be difficult. What you really need here is a fairy godmother.  Someone who can help you figure out if Dr. Charming is more of a toad or a prince. 

So let me put on my little cape and dust off my magic wand. I’ll turn your pumpkin questions about finding a good pediatrician and turn them into the doctor of your dreams! Are you ready to either start from scratch in finding a good pediatrician or evaluate your current doctor?  Bippity. Boppity. Boo!

The Secret to Finding a Good Pediatrician

The magic formula to finding a good pediatrician lies in understanding what you want from your doctor, and then matching that with the doctor that will fulfill those needs. Whether you’re just searching, or starting to second-guess your current doctor, these are the steps to uncovering your happy ever after in the doctor’s office!

Finding a Good Pediatrician:
Starting from Scratch

Your kid will still graduate if you choose the wrong diaper brand, but there are some decisions that genuinely affect your child’s well being.  You need more than a doctor. When it comes to your child’s health, you need a reliable health partner! Someone who will communicate easily and offer suggestions that you can feel confident in.

Here are a few suggestions on finding a good pediatrician when you’re starting from scratch.

When should you begin your search? Ideally, you should start when you’re in your last trimester. That said, if you’re waaay past that mark, don’t sweat it! Now is a good time to start!

Fairy Godmother says…What Type of Doctor Do You Want?

In front of the mirror! Your first step in finding the perfect pediatrician is figuring out what you want.

Not sure what that is?  Start with these questions:

  • How confident are you in caring for your child’s health?  Have you nursed your eleven younger siblings back to health after a household roseola outbreak?  Or did you you just read that last sentence and say “What the heck is roseola?”   (The less confident you are, the more responsive a doctor you want!)
  • What kind of bedside manner do you prefer?  Firm and direct? or gentle and empathetic?
  • Do you want a pediatrician of the same gender as your child?
  • Do you want a physician who works independently? Or one that works in a group, and has a ready stash of specialists to refer you too?
  • Do you prefer to be a part of the decision-making process?  Or do you prefer a doctor who will take charge?  (Did that decision stress you out?  Choose the latter.)
  • When your child has a fever, will you give him Tylenol?  Or rub essential oils on his feet?  In other words, do you want a doctor who takes a standard approach? or one who’s more holistic?
  • How do you feel about vaccines?  Antibiotics?  Sleep training?  Breastfeeding?  Alternative medicine?  (It’s important your doctor sees these things in the same light you do.)
  • What is your parenting philosophy?  Are you the type who has a set idea of how you’ll be parenting your child, or are you looking for a little help?

Taking the time to write out your thoughts about these questions will help you start to get a picture of what your ideal physician looks like.

Fairy Godmother says…Family Doctor? Or Pediatrician?

Besides all those questions to think through, you’re going to have to make a decision of the type of doctor you’re looking for. Meaning, do you want to take your child to a Family Doctor? Or a Pediatrician? There’s no wrong answer here! Both types of education have their merits!

You Know He’s a Family Doctor When…
  • Four years of medical school plus a three-year residency caring for people of all ages (including children)
  • Board-certification in family medicine
  • Convenient when the entire household needs wellness checks or is sick
  • Establishes doctor/patient trust and allows your child to see the same doctor through adulthood
  • Fewer germy children in the waiting room
You Know She’s a Pediatrician When…
  • Four years of medical school plus a three-year residency caring for children and adolescents
  • Board-certified in pediatrics
  • Doctor and staff members specialize in pediatric care
  • Follow American Academy of Pediatric’s guidelines and will probably be more familiar with new pediatric research and methods
  • Very cool fire truck examination tables and other kid-friendly furniture that puts children at ease

Fairy Godmother Says…Time to Interview!

Don’t worry, this isn’t as overwhelming as it feels. You’re just going to ask a few questions and gather some additional information. If you can have a conversation with another adult (and you can) than you can conduct some “interview conversations” to ferret out more information!

Step One: Call the Office

First things first — call the office and ask if they’re accepting new patients and if they accept your insurance.

Hint:  If a friend referred you, make sure to name drop! And if the doctor ISN’T accepting new patients, try writing a well-crafted letter asking them to reconsider.

Once you’ve determined that this doctor is a real possibility, ask to speak to a staff member or nurse who can answer some basic questions about office procedures and protocols.  (This saves you a ton of time in the doctor interview.)

  • What are your regular office hours?
  • How do I schedule an appointment?  (Is there a website for this?)
  • Does the doctor offer any hours outside of normal office hours?
  • If my child is sick, how long does it usually take to get in to see the doctor?
  • Is there a nurse line to call for any of the billions of questions that I may have as a new mom?
  • What are your after-hours policies and procedures?  Is there an on-call doctor at all times?
  • What hospital(s) is this doctor affiliated with?
  • Does the doctor/practice have a website? Does the doctor/staff answer emails?
  • Will the doctor visit my newborn in the hospital?  If not, when is my baby’s first appointment?
Step Two: Meet the Doctor

When you call the office, ask if you can set up a time to meet with your child’s prospective doctor. Remember, doctors are very busy people. This meeting shouldn’t last more than 10-15 minutes. (This is why you’ve already called the office to gather basic info!)

This isn’t the time to ask him about health concerns. It should be 100% focused on your doctor. There are worried parents in the waiting room who need her time too.

Red Flag Alert:  If a doctor tries to charge you a consultation fee for this meeting, run!  Unless you specifically request a longer meeting, there’s no reason why they should charge you for a brief (!!) consultation.

Here are some questions to ask Doc:

  • Why did you choose your field?
  • Do you have any sub-specialities?
  • What are your views on breastfeeding/bottle-feeding?  Immunizations?  Sleep training?  Antibiotics?  Alternative medicine?  (Anything you have strong thoughts on, you’ll want to ask about.)
  • Can you recommend any parenting books?
Step Three: Be Observant

While you’re at the office for your meeting with the doctor, pay attention to a few details to consider later.

  • Was the office staff courteous and prompt?
  • How easy was it to set up the interview?
  • How long did I wait to meet with the doctor?
  • How was the doctor’s bedside manner?
  • What is your gut telling you?  (Never underestimate your mother’s intuition!)

If there are other moms waiting in the office and they seem friendly, feel free to quietly and discreetly ask them about their experience with the doctor. Are they happy with their choice?  Or was it an “Insurance Made Me Pick Him” kind of situation?

Finding a Good Pediatrician:
Evaluating Your Current Doctor

So what happens if you’ve already got your pediatrician, there have been a few hiccups, but you aren’t sure you want to go through the hassle of starting all over again? Here are a few letters your Fairy Godmother has received from other clients (you may recognize a few) that may come in handy!

Fairy Godmother Says…Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

Dear Fairy Godmother: I like our doctor, but don’t know if I can handle the office staff’s unprofessionalism. It’s really difficult to schedule an appointment, the wait time is ridiculous, and they’re just plain rude. I try really hard to be sweet to everyone, but this has me seeing red. What should I do? —Snow White

Dear Snow White:  If the office staff is less than professional, you can either talk to the office manager or talk to your doctor directly.  Doctors are focused on patients all day, so they may be unaware of the problem. When we had issues with our little man, we almost switched doctors because of a glaring clerical error.  Thankfully, we decided to talk to our doctor who apologized and thanked us for pointing out the problem so he could deal with it.   It was a win-win. Try giving the doctor an opportunity to address the issue and the staff an opportunity to improve. Everybody appreciates a second chance.

Fairy Godmother Says…It’s Okay to Disagree

Dear Fairy Godmother: I’m noticing that my child’s doctor isn’t supportive of my parenting choices. When I share my breastfeeding woes, she’s quick to suggest that I switch to formula, and she suggests Tylenol as a fix for everything when I’ve told her that I prefer a more holistic approach. Should I look for another doctor or am I being too picky? —Pocahontas

Dear Pocahontas:  I don’t always agree with our pediatrician either.

  • She told us to throw away the pacifier by age two.  (And risk ruining all his naps?  No way!) I prefer to keep that magical piece of rubber around for a bit longer.
  • She’s a big fan of crying-it-out. My second-born decided he’s not. (Fortunately, there are gentler sleep coaching methods that work better!)

Have you ever heard of the 80-20 rule? It’s the idea that if you agree with someone 80% of the time and disagree 20% of the time, you can usually make it work. That’s how I am with our pediatrician. We disagree on the minors, not the majors, and on most things, we see eye-to-eye.

So, here’s my question to you: do you agree with your child’s doctor 80% of the time? If you answered “no”, it may be time to make a switch and go back through the steps at the beginning of this post.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t have a similar philosophy, you’re both going to end up frustrated. You won’t feel supported in your choices and your doctor won’t like it when you don’t heed her medical advice.

Fairy Godmother Says…Time for Self-Reflection

Dear Fairy Godmother: When I call the nurse line with a question, I can feel them rolling their eyes at me, and I’m afraid they now have me on some sort of blacklist. Should I say something or am I really “that” mom? —Belle

Dear Belle: I feel you, girlfriend! I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve started with “Sorry, me again…” Maybe the nurses do have you on their naughty list…or maybe it’s in your head.

Start by asking yourself: Have the nurses actually done or said anything to make you believe they find you annoying? Or are you second-guessing yourself and assuming the worst? (It’s almost always the latter for me.)

If the nurses seem genuinely annoyed, then do some more self-reflection. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I respecting their time? Make sure you’re prepared before you call. Take your baby’s temperature, write down symptoms or questions, know the name of your child’s prescription all before you pick up the phone.
  • Am I being kind? Sick kids can stress a parent out. Make sure you’re not taking it out on your nurses! Mind your Ps and Qs each time you call.

If everything’s okay on your end and you’re still having issues, ask to talk to the head nurse or (if necessary) your pediatrician. Calmly explain your concerns and give them a chance to address the problem.

Fairy Godmother Says… Trust is Important

Dear Fairy Godmother: My daughter’s pediatrician missed an important diagnosis. Thankfully, another doctor caught it in time. Now we don’t know if we can trust him moving forward. Is it okay to look for another doctor? Or am I end up trapped in an endless cycle of doc-doubt? —Rapunzel

Dear Rapunzel:  What a frightening experience! I’m sorry you and your daughter had to live through such an ordeal. Any time a doctor misses a diagnosis or misdiagnoses a patient, we should pause and evaluate.

Was this a difficult diagnosis that most doctors would have missed? Or was it an easy catch, and your child’s doc just dropped the ball? Doctors are human, but they are held to a certain standard. You want to make sure that your pediatrician is able to give your child the best care possible.

But even if it was a tough call, you’re still going to struggle getting back to your “Tower of Trust” — something that is vital when it comes to balancing patient care.  It sounds like you don’t trust your physician’s skill and competence right now, and that’s certainly understandable. But if you don’t think that trust can be rebuilt, then it’s time to look for another doc.

Finding a Good Pediatrician:
Breaking Up With Dr. Charming

Not all doctor-patient relationships end up with a “happily ever after” ending.  Sometimes finding a good pediatrician means letting go of your current one. Here are a few tips to make the break-up easier on both of you:

  • Try to have a new (in-network) doctor lined up before you leave your old one.
  • If you want to offer an explanation for leaving, feel free, but don’t feel obligated.
  • If there is a serious malpractice issue, contact your state’s Medical Board.
  • Don’t forget to transfer your medical records.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows you to receive copies of your medical records within 30 days of making a request. The provider cannot charge you for retrieving your records, but they can charge a reasonable fee to cover their copying and mailing costs. In most cases, you can expect to pay $20-25.

Try to resist the urge to badmouth your old pediatrician. If someone specifically asks about your old doctor, then by all means, share your experience, but don’t make it your life goal to ruin his reputation.

Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. Your #1 job is taking care of that cute baby of yours! Do what you need to do…guilt. free.

Finding a Good Pediatrician:
It’s Decision Time

The clock is about to strike midnight, and you have a decision to make. Fairy godmothers are great and all when it comes to finding a good pediatrician, but the truth is, you are the expert on your own baby.

Only you can know for certain if you’ve found your Dr. Charming or if it’s time to move on.

The good news, though, is now you have the questions to evaluate your current doctor and the steps to finding a new one!

Now THAT sounds like a healthy ever after!

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