9 Ways to Find a Good Pediatrician You Can Trust
Who can calm a mother's frantic worry over a late-night fever? Or soothe an anxious new father's worries about his ability to care for an infant? Pediatricians play a large role in the lives of the young people they serve and parents must not make their selection without considering a few things first.
Your gut instinct feels good
A parent’s instinct should not be ignored, and may even be the best way to make important decisions when it comes to your children. No one knows your child the way that you do, and if you feel good about a decision regarding his care, then trust yourself. Everyone has heard the stories about parents saving their children based on instinct alone, that simple gut feeling that you get when something just isn’t right. So if you’re feeling good about your child’s physician, chances are that you’ve made a good choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you consider how you feel during an appointment: rushed and hurried, or as though the doctor is genuinely concerned about your child’s health? Examine the way you feel about the care you received after a visit as well. Do you feel at peace with the decisions made, and like your concerns were considered to be valid? Choosing a doctor for your child and yourself can sometimes feel a bit like any other relationship: it either clicks or it doesn’t. This is not the time to settle. If it doesn’t feel like there’s a connection and understanding about your wishes for your child’s care, it might be time to move on. Here’s more advice on finding a doctor you trust. It’s important to trust your doctor, but it’s also important to trust the brands on the products you use every day. Meet the super heroes of the most trusted brands in America.
You feel comfortable enough to tell her your biggest health worries for your child
Every parent worries about their child’s health. It starts as soon as they’re born. Are they eating enough? Pooping enough? Breathing correctly? For first-time parents these fears can feel magnified, as every day with their newborn is uncharted territory. Having a physician who understands this, and can sympathize, is invaluable. You need to find someone that takes each of your concerns seriously, even if you must preface them with, “I know this sounds crazy but…” A parent should never feel like they cannot bring up an issue with a pediatrician for fear of seeming paranoid, over-protective, or annoying. This is a non-negotiable issue that directly affects the health of your child. Your child needs an advocate who isn’t afraid or intimidated to ask every question necessary concerning her health. Find a pediatrician that hears your concerns, validates them, and then puts them to rest. Ben Spitalnick, MD, MBA, PhD, co-author of Baby Care Anywhere: A Quick Guide to Parenting On the Go, says that pediatricians should listen to parents. “[A pediatrician] should listen to everything you have to say. A nurse or helper will likely ask you questions before the doctor comes in, but a good pediatrician doesn’t just rely on that information. She wants to hear it from the patient or parent themselves, to be sure the concerns are accurate, and to see if there is anything that hasn’t been asked.”
You trust him to tell you the truth
If you know without a doubt that your pediatrician is always truthful with you, even when it isn’t what you want to hear, that is a very good thing. When a child’s health is at stake, there is no room for sugar-coating. This doesn’t mean that he delivers bad news with a harsh tone or attitude, but rather that the information is given in its entirety. Dr. Spitalnick says, “You know you’ve got a good pediatrician when he is willing to admit he doesn’t automatically know the diagnosis to an illness, but he can explain what steps they will take to help you find out. It may take lab work, a call to a sub-specialist, or simple follow up as an illness evolves, but a great pediatrician is willing to admit there is more than one possible reason you are sick, and understand the process needed to narrow down the answer.” You should never leave an appointment wondering if there were other tests that could have or should have been performed to help diagnose your child. Your pediatrician should also offer you any and all information you request about a diagnosis, and be willing to go the extra step to provide other recommendations of resources such as helpful books or websites. (Related: Be sure to read these signs that you can’t trust health advice from the web.)
She returns your calls
Not every illness requires a visit to the doctor, and sometimes a simple question about medicine or care can be answered with a quick phone call. If your pediatrician understands this and returns your calls promptly, it can make life with little ones at home much easier. Moms and dads that place requests for their child’s doctor to return a call should also be prepared for the possibility that a visit is recommended by front office staff. This should be taken seriously, as they are properly trained to determine when a child needs to be seen and a phone call will not suffice. Having trust in not only the physician you have chosen, but also in the ability of the front office staff to ensure your child receives prompt and considerate care is key. While awaiting a call back from the doctor, have questions to ask a pediatrician ready, so that nothing is forgotten. Dr. Spitalnick says, “You know you’ve got a great pediatrician, when you feel you can reach her when you need her. If you know your pediatrician’s office has access seven days a week then you can expect consistency; as opposed to using urgent care centers for sick visits.” When interviewing physicians, one of the questions to ask a pediatrician is what their call return policy entails. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ healthychildren.org, other questions to ask a pediatrician include which hospital they are appointed to in the event of a hospital stay, and how acute illnesses are handled.
He remembers your child’s health history
You know you’ve got a great pediatrician when he remembers your child’s health history from visit to visit. You can be confident that your child is receiving individualized care when his doctor remembers the dairy sensitivity your child experienced at four months, or the awful stomach virus that rocked your family’s world a few months back. Doctors see many patients and cannot be expected to remember every detail about every one of them, but it is comforting when your child’s physician can recall basic information about the big events that make up your child’s health history. When a doctor remembers a child not only as a patient, but as an individual, it communicates care, trust, and devotion, all of which are integral in the patient-doctor relationship.
She supports your requests for your child
As long as they are not harmful to your child’s well-being, a doctor should support your wishes for your child’s care. Perhaps you would rather your son not be circumcised, or you plan to continue breastfeeding past the one-year mark. Your doctor should support your desires with no judgment, and should never try to sway your opinion one way or the other because of their own non-medically based opinion. Unless your plans are detrimental to your child’s health, it is not the doctor’s place to try to change your mind. Most parents take the advice of their pediatrician very seriously, and as such, asking for input to help you decide health-related decisions for your child can be extremely beneficial. A good pediatrician will help you weigh the pros and cons of important choices, and give you the freedom to decide what is best for your child and your family.
He is respectful of your time
The pediatrician’s waiting room is notoriously a place where parents and children wait exorbitant amounts of time to be seen. Sometimes this is unavoidable, like during flu season. If this becomes a regular occurrence, however, you might want to consider changing offices. Dr. Spitalnick advises finding a pediatrician that helps parents to get as much taken care of in one appointment as possible. “Great pediatricians find a way to address the ‘as long as we are here’ issues. It’s hard enough to take the time to get in for a doctor’s appointment and wait to be seen. You don’t want to have to come back again for a flu shot, a sports form, or for something that can be easily handled on the same day.” If you have questions to ask a pediatrician, try to make a list and ask them during one appointment, instead of waiting until the next time you see them. Cutting down wait times at the office can sometimes be as simple as asking the front office staff when the best time of day is to schedule appointments. If you have young children that do not yet attend school, it might be faster to schedule appointments during morning hours when school is still in session. A good pediatrician will also advise you of the best times to get blood work drawn if you’re being referred to a lab, and will make sure he is performing exams on your child efficiently.
Your child likes her
A great pediatrician will have a connection with your child and a good bedside manner. A pediatrician should have a way with children that encourages comfort and trust. Children might not always enjoy the exams or vaccinations that come with a visit to the doctor, but they should have a baseline comfort level. If your child seems to have repeated trouble warming up to the doctor, it might be time to consider finding another physician that has a better way of connecting with her patients. The relationship your child forms with his or her pediatrician can influence his or her desire to seek medical attention when needed, so it is important that even if the visits are not always fun, they are not dreaded or avoided. Dr. Spitalnick says pediatricians should understand that kids won’t always enjoy being at the doctor. “As a pediatrician we see both children and parents at their most stressed moments: when they are sick, have been up all night, are on medicines causing side effects, have missed nap times, and are off schedule, and when a parent is distracted by being away from their own job. A great pediatrician recognizes this and understands a child’s behavior is often just as much a symptom as cough or fever.” (Find out how to get the most out of your doctor’s appointment.)
He speaks to you with respect
A great pediatrician will speak to his patients and their parents with respect while educating them, and without any trace of condescension or sarcasm. You should feel respected and as though your child’s doctor views you as an equal partner in caring for your child. He should explain diagnoses in terms you can understand, and you should feel perfectly comfortable clarifying any information that is unclear, without fear of being viewed as less than or uneducated. Dr. Spitalnick discusses the importance of a doctor that is constantly learning. “A pediatrician who is willing to teach medical students, talk about a recent study they read, or discuss new guidelines that have been approved, shows they know medicine is constantly changing. And it shows they respect the commitment to continuing to learn the most current guidelines and treatments.”