Questions to Ask when Selecting a Pediatrician

Today’s parents have good reason to think about what questions to ask when select ing a pediatrician. Fifty years ago few parents worried about what questions to ask when selecting a pediatrician , they just gathered up the kids and took them to the family doctor, the same one who took care of them. In today’s world knowing what questions to ask when choosing a pediatrician is a task parents need to take seriously. Before the birth of your first child, when moving to a new area or after determining to retain a different pediatrician, you will want to narrow the field of choices and then make an appointment to interview two or three candidates. Pediatricians will entertain this type of introductory visit but the amount of time they can spend is limited. Deciding in advance what questions to ask when selecting a pediatrician will help you all to make the best use of your brief time together. Perhaps you will benefit from using some of the questions that follow.

Qualifications To many parents the most important set of questions that they can ask when selecting a pediatrician have to do with his or her qualifications. You can save some valuable question time with your potential pediatrician by simply being observant. As you sit in his office waiting for him to come out of a meeting or exam room take a few moments to look at the walls. In most cases they will be decorated with diplomas and certificates. These wall decorations will answer some of your questions by telling you where your doctor attended medical school, where he served out his residency and what boards have certified him. Reflecting on these certificates or in some cases the lack of certificates may either answer some questions or generate others in your search to determine the true qualifications of this doctor.

While you can judge a pediatrician’s training and experience in part by the certificates on the wall, you will also want to ask some more direct questions in selecting your pediatrician to help reveal the depth and variety of his medical experience. For example ” How long have you been a practicing pediatrician? How long have you been in this particular practice or town? Of what medical experience are you most proud? Have you had any other medical experiences outside of a pediatric office – spent time in some medical branch of the service, done some teaching or writing, worked in a clinic, non-profit or international medical unit? “

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you to select a pediatrician who has the kind and amount of medical experience that will allow you to feel comfortable when you put your child in his or her care.

The Practice Many pediatricians are in multiple person practices today where they share responsibilities with other pediatricians or nurse practitioners . The positive effect your potential pediatrician creates by sharing a well stocked resume can either be amplified or decimated by what your questions reveal about his practice.

You can probably discover what you want to know about the viability of this practice by asking questions like “How long has this practice existed with its current makeup of doctors? Are there any plans in the offing for changes in personnel, if so who and why? What are the long range plans for this practice?” While these questions may sound a bit invasive or overly inquisitive remember, you are interested in asking questions that will allow you to select a pediatrician for the foreseeable future. You don’t want to be asking these same questions all over again in two or three years time.

Your child may want the stability of knowing that in most cases he or she will see his or her own personal pediatrician and not just anyone who happens to be available. If that is important to you don’t hesitate to ask. “Will you be the doctor who regularly sees my child or will he be likely to rotate among doctors in this practice?”

Practice policies need to be investigated when selecting a pediatrician. You may want to ask, ” What methods of payment are accepted and when must payment be provided? When is the office open, are there Saturday or evening appointment hours available? What kind of weekend coverage does this practice provide.” Certainly some of these questions are very basic and the facts could be obtained just as easily from the secretarial staff but by asking these questions directly of the pediatrician you give yourself the opportunity to listen to his or her responses and get a window on how he feels about practice policies. Sometimes there is more to the answers than just the facts, these kinds of questions can also reveal important things about this pediatrician’s personal attitude and priorities that can be helpful in forming your overall impression.

Additional Services As much as you may not want to think about it, you know that eventually the time will come when your children will need a blood or urine test, a throat culture or an x-ray. There may come a time when your child will need to visit an emergency room or be admitted to a hospital. Knowing that all of these things are quite possible and in some cases likely should encourage you to ask questions of your potential pediatrician about how his practice will assist you in getting all the full medical services you need. It will certainly add to your positive opinion of any pediatrician if he or she can answer your questions in a way that acknowledges the importance of your question and gives assurance that your needs will be met. And so you should feel comfortable asking questions like: ” Are there lab facilities in your office building or is all testing done off site? With which hospital are you affiliated and is that where my child would be hospitalized if you found it necessary to recommend hospitalization? Where should my child seek emergency assistance? Do you occasionally refer patients to any nearby pediatric or children’s hospital?”

Personal Questions Some of the questions to ask when selecting a pediatrician are difficult to ask because they are more about the person than about the pediatrician you are selecting. These more personal questions are handled best by adroitly tucking them in among the more profession based inquiries. For example talking about the diplomas on the wall can also lead to a subtle question about the family picture on the desk. Talking about your own kids or your own anticipation may open to a conversation about his or her own family experiences. Without being too aggressive you can find ways to ask questions like “so has this town been pretty good to you and your practice” or , ” I can’t imagine having to deal with sick children all day, what convinced you to become a pediatrician.” These more personal questions that you ask when selecting a pediatrician are as significant as the questions you ask about the doctor and his profession. You not only want to know your pediatrician as a doctor but also as a human being because your child will view him or her as both.

It is unlikely that you will have adequate time to ask every question you may want to ask when selecting a pediatrician at one simple interview. That’s why it is very important to talk to your child’s other parent before your meeting to prioritize your questions so that you can be sure to ask the three or four questions that are the most important to the two of you. Not every set of parents will care about the same aspects of a pediatrician’s resume or personality and there are no right or wrong questions to ask or answers to give. Choosing a pediatrician for your child is important but it also is very personal. When you have interviewed the possible choices perhaps the one question you will need to ask yourselves when selecting a pediatrician is which doctor works for us.

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