Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Picking a pediatrician

After reading countless blogs, articles, and recommendations for how I/we should go about the selection process, we finally did it.  We found our pediatrician.  What a relief this was to check off my list of 'to-do's' before the girls arrived.

I know I relied heavily on the recommendations of other Mom's/families that went through this selection process recently. Besides. I'd never been a Mom before. How was I supposed to know how to go about doing this?

Most parenting websites and magazines recommend starting this selection process around months six or seven in pregnancy.  We didn't start interviewing potentials until month eight(ish), which is probably a shocker for those that know me personally.  In a perfect (OCD) world, I would typically have found someone by month five or six.  Life was a whirlwind with bed rest and doctor visits for myself, so we started late.  I will say that making your selection later in the game (like we did) isn't the end of the world.

So, first things first: Decide on what is most important to you when it comes to selecting a pediatrician for your baby (and in my case: babies). Some things to consider are:

*Recommended by friends and/or family?

If I'm going to be real honest, convenience became top priority on the list, with recommendations by friends and family being in a close second.  When deciding all of this for our family, the thought of going outside the house with not just one, but two babies sort of freaked me out. I hadn't quite wrapped my brain around that concept.  Plus, I know that there will times that I won’t be the one taking the girls to the doctor.  Sometimes Jordan will be doing it, and with my mother-in-law taking care of them a couple days a week, there even may be a time or two that she will be on doctor duty.  I wouldn't want to ask her to drive 30-45 minutes with sick babies just because he/she has a great reputation.  I was sure I could find someone just as great closer to home.  But, circumstances are different for everyone- and if you are the one that drives 45 minutes to see your pediatrician, I'm not judging.

All that being said, we began our search for local pediatricians in the area where we live and areas surrounding us.

When I say search, I mean Google.  How else do you search?  In less than an hour’s time I had a working list of offices I wanted to make a call to see about getting an interview set up with the pediatrician.  I was pleased to learn that most offices had a time slot specifically for this interview process, so it was really easy to set up a time to come in to meet the doctor.

So, now I have the interview/consult set up with these people, what in the world do I do with this time they've allotted for me?  What are the best questions to ask them?  Again - I scoured over Pinterest, blogs, websites, magazine articles - you name it, and I read it. (Being on bed rest you have a lot of time to read/research/blog hop.)  As I did this, I compiled a list of questions that I thought would be helpful to learn about during our quest to find the perfect pediatrician for Parker and Jolie.

Does the doctor take my insurance? 
Every single office I called asked this question of me before they would answer my question: "Are you accepting new patients?"  Their immediate response was "Who is your insurance provider?"  I appreciated this as it didn't waste my time or theirs.

What are your office hours?  Do you have weekend hours available? 
Again, with the convenience thing.

Who takes your calls after the office has closed?
My bigger question:  Can I get a hold of you if I have an emergency at 10p.m.?

Do you encourage routine/non-emergency questions by phone?  Do you charge for these?  
I saw this question on numerous websites as one to ask.  Those pediatricians we interviewed did encourage questions by phone and did not charge for them.

Is this a solo or a group practice?  
I wanted to know if it is a group practice, how often do I have to see the other practitioners in the office? If it was a solo practice, who covers when you are unavailable?

How many years has the doctor been in practice?  How long have they been in this position and what were their previous roles before coming here? 
Although experience wasn't at the top of my list for selection, I still wanted to know a little about their history.

Do you have any specialties?
If my child has a special need, would this pediatrician be able to handle it?

What hospitals do you have privileges with?
In an emergency, if my girls need hospital admittance for whatever reason, where would you send them and would you be the one to care for them once they are admitted?

Will you see the girls in the hospital after they are born or will you first visit be with them in your office?
All of the pediatricians we interviewed would see the girls 2-3 days after they come home from the hospital - allowing the hospital staff pediatrician to care for them during their stay post birth.

What is the schedule for well-baby/child check-ups?
First-timers here, I want to know what to expect in the first months/years with check-ups, shots, etc.

Do you encourage the vaccination of all your patients?  
This comes to a personal preference.  The view or practice of your pediatrician should be similar to your own, especially in regards to the vaccination of your kiddos.  If they are strongly for it, it would definitely be the wrong fit for you if you are against.

What are your views on antibiotics?
Should I expect to walk out of the pediatrician's office every time with a script in hand?  I'm not the one (or at least I don't think I will be the one) to drag my kids to the doctor for every sneeze and sniffle. I personally would hope that the doctor wouldn't be handing out prescriptions like candy.

Can you see my babies at the same time?
In my case, with twins on the way, I want to make sure that this pediatrician can see both girls at the same time.

What tests are you able to do in house and what tests do you send your patients out of the office for?
In other words, are you able to do basic lab panels in the office or will you send me, with babies in tow, to another location for lab testing?  I think in some cases this is related to your insurance carrier, too.

What are your views on breastfeeding? What resources do you have for breastfeeding mothers? 
In other words:  if I have trouble with breastfeeding, can I rely on your encouragement and help with seeking out resources?

Lastly, my observational questions.  Not anything I asked the potential pedi, but just some things I made sure to make note of while I was visiting the office:

Was everything clean?
Was there a toy/books/entertainment for the kids in the waiting areas?
Was the waiting area kid friendly?
Was the staff/nurses nice and helpful?
Easy to find?  
How was parking?
Waiting time for my appointment?
Do I feel comfortable with the doctor?  Was he/she open to my questions?
Good 'bed-side' manner? 

Of course, all these questions may or may not seem helpful to you, but I know it made it easy for me to get a good idea of the pediatrician's style, personality, and my comfort level with them in just one initial visit. Plus, these questions opened up doors for extended conversation, which was nice, too.

We selected a pediatrician that was close to home, very professional, so sweet, and really personable with Jordan and me.  I am one to wear my heart on my sleeve, and so those things are really important to me. In the end our due diligence worked out. We LOVE our pediatrician now because she is amazing and always available for questions if we need her.

Anything I'm missing in this long list?  What do you look for when you are on your own doctor hunt?  

Amber Massey is a registered dietitian with the Executive Health program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and New Mom to twin girls.

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