I'll admit it, sometimes when creating posts for this series I struggle. I worry that I'm not an experienced enough mom to be writing with any sort of authority, so I've stuck mostly with sharing my own newbie-mom experiences.
This time, though, I feel like I can bring something to to the table. The topic is: choosing a pediatrician and hey-- I am one!
As you know, I am doing continued training in pediatric endocrinology, so other than in residency I have not practiced general pediatrics. But during training, I certainly learned the ins and outs of the outpatient clinic and have developed clear ideas of what I'd want in a practice once it was my turn! And when that time finally came . . . I chose to go back to where I trained. Here are the factors that I considered in making the decision.
✔ Physician experience. This is terribly hypocritical, but . . . I didn't want to take Annabel to a resident. That said, I ended up choosing one of my former colleagues (she was the chief just one year ahead of me!) who had only been practicing for a year. I don't necessarily think that older = better when it comes to pediatric care-- younger physicians may actually be more paranoid which can actually be a GOOD thing when it comes to picking up little things in babies. and I knew that if there was ever some crazy diagnostic dilemma and my pediatrician felt she was over her head, she'd have a million other doctors to ask for help (and she would!).
I also chose a pediatrician who was a recent new mom herself, as I thought that this would make her more in tune with the various trends in parenting.
✔ Hours/accessibility. What if your baby gets sick . . . on a Sunday? If the practice has weekend hours, it can be a really great time [and $] saver if the only other option would be an urgent care (and not all practitioners at these places are very comfortable with children, especially young ones) or an ER. Unfortunately, I had to compromise on this point, but at least my practice is open on Saturday.
✔ Access to specialists/associated hospital. I'm very comforted knowing that if A. needed to see a specialist, it would be easy to get great recommendations on those who practice for almost every flavor of pediatrics at our big hospital. I also feel very confident in the care that A. would receive should she ever need admission to our big academic center. It's important to find out where the pediatricians at a given group admit to (small local hospital without a peds department or big center? I'd argue that the latter is preferable.).
Some practices also have specialists built into the practice -- like an on-site dietician, lactation consultant, or pharmacist. These extras can really be convenient if you ever need to do a two-in-one visit, plus it's likely that the providers will communicate with one another.
✔ Rapport. Since I already knew my pediatrician, I didn't have to do any sort of interview, but if you don't have MD connections, I highly recommend meeting potential candidates before you commit. Most practices offer a free 'consultation' visit that will allow you to do just that. You really want someone you will be comfortable with -- able to ask 'dumb' questions (NO question is dumb!) and even vent when things get tough.
✔ Location. I know, this doesn't seem like something that should be a big deal when it comes to the health of your child, right? But there are a whole slew of visits during the first year, and making a long trek to an out-of-the-way clinic would have been inconvenient.