Many women don’t know that they can set up consultations with pediatricians for a prenatal visit/ consultation. This is an excellent opportunity to pick the best doctor for your baby. Rather than picking someone last minute or having the hospital pick a pediatrician for your baby while you are in the hospital, you can interview and feel good about your baby’s doctor for the next 18 years.
These interviews usually take only fifteen to thirty minutes. Before you get there, save time by calling ahead to ask if the doctor is running late. Note whether the waiting room is well equipped with toys and books to keep a child entertained when you get there. Also, seek advice from others in the waiting room, especially about the average time they wait. You can learn a lot about a practice by how other parents feel about the doctor, and you will get a firsthand view of how the staff handles you and your child.
To make sure you are covering all the essential questions, bring this printout with you:
- What are your medical education, training, and certification?
- Why did you choose pediatrics? Open-ended questions like this will reveal much about the physician’s personality and attitudes. Can you ask a silly question, or does the doctor intimidate you? She shouldn’t be impatient or condescending with you either.
- How long have you been in practice?
- Will you examine my newborn infant in the hospital? How often?
- Where do you stand on the issue of _______? It would help if you also raised some of your values and your philosophy of mothering for discussion. Choose subjects that are important to you, such as:
- Allowing your baby to sleep in your bed
- Feeding on demand
- Placing a six-week-old or twelve-week-old in child care
- Starting to feed solid food
- Bonding immediately after birth.
- Phone management of childhood illnesses
- You should expect to receive literature regarding nutrition, development, and safety, as well as information about classes and other child-related activities.
- Do you have children? It may be comforting to know if your doctor has children.
- Are you part of a group practice? If you go with a doctor in a solo practice, find out who covers when he’s/she’s away. If he’s part of a group practice, ask about the background of the other doctors. Some practices have pediatric nurse practitioners. They are fully trained nurses, often with an MA and specialized training.
- Do you have call-in hours?
- What are your office hours?
- When are you available?
- How long does a typical check-up last? Ideally, it should last at least 20 minutes.
- Who will be answering questions? Often a busy pediatrician will have a medical assistant or nurse practitioner take care of the common, non-urgent problems. Some offices have a 24/7 nurse’s line just for this purpose. Are you or a backup doctor available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?
- Do you separate well-being and sick-baby appointments?
- What is your policy on medication?
- Do you prefer trying noninvasive aids first?
- How do you handle emergencies? The answer will tell you about hospital affiliations and what procedures to follow if your child has an emergency. It should include directions about who to call after office hours.
- Do you make house calls? Under what circumstances?
- What do you charge for office visits, lab tests, and immunizations?
- Will I be charged for telephone consultations?
- Is there a charge for canceling an appointment?
- Will I be billed for a visit, or will I have to pay at once?
- Does your office accept a credit card or a check?
- If a medical procedure is expensive, will you be able to pay in installments?
- Does your staff do the paperwork, or must I?
Once you’ve narrowed your decision to two contenders, trust your instincts to pick your baby’s healthcare provider. Someone you can trust and with whom you can talk openly. You won’t want to feel like they can’t speak at your level, and you don’t want to feel as if the doctor is too busy to answer your questions. You want a pediatrician who you respect, who will meet all your needs and your child’s needs, and who will be available for the long-term as your child grows.
For more about questions to ask when interviewing a pediatrician, listen to our podcast episode here.