As expecting parents-to-be, choosing a pediatrician has been on my to-do list for weeks now. With all the other tasks there have been to get ready for our baby, this one kept getting pushed aside but mainly because I didn’t quite know where to begin.
If you’re anything like me, and feeling overwhelmed on where to start when it comes selecting the right pediatrician for your child, here are some insights from a local pediatrician, Dr. Rajeev Agarwal from Agave Pediatrics who can help you navigate the process. Everything from when to begin your research, what questions to ask, and things to keep in mind when making your selection.
When to Look for a Pediatrician:
It is recommended to start your search for a pediatrician at least during the second trimester of pregnancy. Before delivery at a hospital or birthing center, it is essential to have a pediatrician’s office in mind to request medical records be sent to your regular provider. This way, there are no interruptions in the child’s care. After delivery, finding a pediatrician may be difficult as the responsibilities of a new parent can seem overbearing at first. So it’s best to prepare early on!
Questions to Ask When Meeting a Pediatrician:
• What are the practice’s office hours? It is vital that an office is flexible with your schedule or accommodates your time as a new parent.
• Does the office accept my insurance? Care should not be a financial burden and it is important if an office accepts your insurance for coverage.
• How much breastfeeding support is provided?
• What is your childcare philosophy? Does your philosophy of care match with your pediatrician’s? Having someone who understands and is open to your childcare philosophy is crucial to maintaining a positive patient-provider relationship.
• Does the office offer an after-hours service and/or is there a call-in policy? When your child needs care for a sick visit, there must be some flexibility scheduling in a timely manner to be seen for said concerns.
• What is your vaccination policy? Some offices offer alternative schedules, and some do not. This is important to ask if a parent has strong beliefs regarding their child’s vaccination status.
• Does the provider have extensive experience with newborns? Is the provider board certified? Providers should absolutely be board certified because it demonstrates that they know the latest advancements in their specialty and ensures the highest quality of care. As medical care advances, so should providers. Board certification also shows a provider’s commitment to patient care and that he or she is adherent to rigorous assessment standards.
• Are you able to communicate with your provider effectively and openly?
Other Practical Things to Consider:
• Do you prefer a small practice or a larger practice, or a somewhere in the middle kind of practice?
• The distance to a pediatrician’s office from our home
• Do you prefer to be seen at a multi-racial or cultural office, where the providers will understand your culture and may even be able to speak your language?
Evaluating all these questions is essential, but a gut feeling is needed just as much as a conscious decision when choosing a pediatrician.
If an office allows visits and interaction with staff, this is a great way to determine if a specific pediatrician’s office is an excellent fit for you. Please reach out to an office if they offer this opportunity, and if not, request a tele-visit for more insight and feel for the staff. Please be mindful that in-person interactions may be limited with COVID restrictions in place.
The feeling you get from visiting an office is important, but you can get equally good, if not better information from websites and reviews in the internet age. Always be wary of reviews, as they tend to be written by unhappy patients and can skew perspectives.
What to Do if You End Up Unhappy with your Pediatrician:
If you do not feel supported in your decision-making or philosophy of care, it’s important to have an open discussion directly with the provider or practice manager regarding your negative experiences. Parents should consult with staff rather than posting a negative review as it will improve the care of their own child and other children that could be experiencing similar situations. If you feel incorrect or outdated information is being provided, it is best to address this issue with the provider to understand their reasoning.
Dr. Rajeev Agarwal went to medical school at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, AIIMS, in New Delhi. After which, he came to the United States for his Pediatric Residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He then join the Pediatric Nephrology fellowship at University of Florida at Gainesville. Under the program, he also conducted bench research at Ohio State University. Dr. Agarwal worked on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for eight years in general pediatrics before moving to Arizona to establish Agave Pediatrics in 2005. Learn more at agavepediatrics.com