As new parents, you'll spend lots of time with your baby in the first year of life. But there's another person who will see your baby a lot as well ??? your pediatrician.
Published: November 30, 2014
By: Lori Chandler Pruitt
Fortunately, there are lots of great choices. “Pediatric care in the Birmingham area is excellent, no matter where you go,” says Dr. Dan Carter, a pediatrician with Greenvale Pediatrics in Hoover, one of 12 Children’s of Alabama practices. “There are so many great pediatricians, and there’s no shortage.”
Pediatricians have special training in the health and illnesses of youngsters through adolescence – and most are certified by the Article Body
American Board of Pediatrics after passing a comprehensive examination covering all areas of health related to infants, children, and young adults.
Parents should choose a pediatrician before the baby is born to establish care from the beginning, at the hospital, since the pediatrician coordinates efforts with the OB/GYN and attends to mom and baby in the hospital the day of birth.
Many first-time parents ask friends and family for their recommendations – and that’s a great resource because friends and family can give honest and detailed information about their own experiences. Parents also can take advantage of open houses or “meet and greets” held once a month or more at pediatric practices, so that parents can meet all the doctors in the practice, the office staff and get other information.
“These are great ways to come in and meet everyone in the practice, tour the facilities and get all your questions answered,” says Dr. Kelli Tapley, a pediatrician with Birmingham Pediatrics at the Women’s and Children’s Center at St. Vincent’s, whose practice also has delivery privileges at Brookwood and Trinity medical centers. “You will spend a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office, especially in the first few years, so a good fit is important.”
With a list in hand, call the office of each and inquire about the doctor’s background and training, as well as general office procedures. Make sure the doctor of your choice is taking new patients.
Next, arrange for an interview during which you can meet the doctor and ask some additional questions. The demeanor and helpfulness of the front office staff is vital to a good experience as well. Many pediatricians are happy to have an in-person interview with expectant parents; although a phone interview also may work well.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some things to consider:
What are the doctor’s present hospital appointments? Where does he/she have hospital admitting privileges? If it becomes necessary for your youngster to be hospitalized, where would he be admitted?
- Is the pediatrician’s office conveniently located for you? Is it easily accessible?
- Are the office hours convenient for your own schedule? What is the after-hours procedure if your child needs to be seen?
- What is the doctor’s policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in the office who can answer routine questions?
- Is the doctor in a group practice with other physicians? Does another physician cover for the doctor at times? Who handles phone calls when the office is closed or during vacations?
- Do you sense a genuine interest by the doctor in the problems of your child, including particular health disorders he may have?
- Do both the physician and the office staff appear amicable and courteous? Do they demonstrate compassion and patience? Or do you feel rushed in the office, as though the doctor is eager to move on to the next patient?
- How are visits for acute illnesses handled? Can you make an appointment on short notice if your child needs to see the pediatrician because of a sore throat or an infection, for example?
- Does the doctor communicate clearly, using layman’s language (not medical jargon) to explain illnesses and treatments, and does the doctor make an effort to ensure that all your questions are answered?
- What are the doctor’s usual fees for sick visits, routine examinations and immunizations? What is the office policy regarding the processing of insurance forms?
- In what insurance and managed-care programs does the doctor participate?
- If your child should ever develop a complex illness that necessitates the care of one or more specialists, will your pediatrician coordinate care among all the doctors providing treatment?
For parents whose child will be born with special needs, it’s a good idea to check with support groups, websites and parents who also have children with special needs to get good recommendations, Carter says. “If you know your child will be born with a disability, the earlier you can become connected with a pediatrician, the better, so that he or she can coordinate with the OB/GYN.”
Despite such an important decision, most of the time the choice comes down to whom you trust to care for your child. “The number one consideration for most parents is the level of comfort and trust you have in your pediatrician,” Tapley says.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is associate editor of Birmingham Parent.