When choosing a pediatrician, there’s a lot to consider. Here are some tips for how to choose a pediatrician — so you can build a relationship that works for your family.
Navigating a pregnancy, moving to a new city or even moving to a new neighborhood can cause a lot of upheaval for a family. Whether you’re choosing a pediatrician for the first time, looking to switch after a move or for any reason, there’s a lot to consider. Here are some tips for how to choose a pediatrician –– so you can build a relationship that works for your family.
Building a relationship with a pediatrician is crucial for parents. In a child’s first year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents take their baby in for at least seven well-child visits. Parents also could spend more time in a pediatrician’s office during that first year should a child develop fever, ear infections or any number of unexpected issues. Additionally, pediatricians screen children for a variety of conditions and make sure that children are growing and developing as they should. Establishing a lasting relationship with a provider you can trust with your child’s health can help you as a parent — having a person you can turn to with questions and your concerns for your child.
When to choose a pediatrician
Consider starting your pediatrician search early during pregnancy. Starting your search early can give you enough time to do research, talk to family and friends for recommendations and talk to different pediatricians. Babies can come early — and once you’re admitted to deliver your child, you’ll be asked the name of your pediatrician. Choosing a pediatrician early allows you to worry less about “getting everything done” in the last trimester before baby arrives.
When families move to a new city or part of town, finding a new pediatrician can help them settle in to a new area. Establishing a medical home with a pediatrician for your child in your new location can help you make sure your child’s health care continues uninterrupted.
How to pick a pediatrician
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a pediatrician — they’re the provider for your child first, but also will help support you as your child grows. When choosing a new pediatrician, you will want to consider:
- Type of provider: A pediatrician is a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine — but there are many providers who take care of children, including pediatric nurse practitioners as well as family medicine providers. Whatever your preference, you can verify that provider is board certified (they have a degree from a qualified school and passed training and exams needed to practice medicine). You can confirm certifications for pediatric medical doctors, family medicine doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine
- Provider characteristics: A provider’s age, gender and years of experience may seem like they’re not important factors in choosing a pediatrician, but they can affect your level of trust. Being honest about what will help you feel comfortable and build a relationship with a provider is important. You’ll need to build a good relationship with a pediatrician because they may be caring for your child for well over a decade. You want to be able to feel comfortable with them and feel like you can ask them anything.
- Provider personality: You’ll want to consider if you think the provider’s personality and care delivery style meet your needs as a parent.
- Do you want a provider who is more matter-of-fact or someone who is warm and chatty?
- Do you prefer an authoritative or more collaborative approach? This can mean doctors giving guidance based on research evidence or giving you options based on evidence as well as their own clinical experience?
The AAP suggests parents consider a prenatal visit with a pediatrician for all expectant families. While these visits are not 100% necessary or possible for busy families, a visit can give you a chance to meet a pediatrician before your child arrives to ask questions and see if you’re comfortable with the provider and their philosophy of care. Many practices offer open houses for potential parents to tour an office and meet with staff and providers. Norton Children’s Medical Group pediatrician offices usually offer monthly “Newbie Nights” for families to tour and meet providers. During the pandemic, we’ve suspended in-person Newbie Nights, instead offering recorded virtual Newbie Night tours for you to get to know the office and some of our providers.
If undecided or you’d like to talk more with certain providers, consider calling and setting up phone or in-person interviews with your top choices for your child’s pediatrician to help solidify your choice.
How to pick a pediatrician practice — location, hours and practice size can help parents
There are a lot of factors in addition to the pediatrician to consider. Is the office close to work, day care or school? Does it take my health plan? Consider these when choosing a pediatrician:
- Health insurance: You’ll want to consult your health plan’s website to make sure that the pediatrician is in your health plan’s network. Additionally, websites may not be up to date, so you may want to call your health plan to confirm the provider is in your plan’s network.
- Types of care available: If you know your child has or will need any kind of specialty care, you may want to consider a pediatrician who works for or has a relationship with a larger health system or pediatric hospital. This may help parents coordinate care easier among various doctors and clinics should your child need their care.
- Location: Is the practice in a convenient location for you? Is it near your home or office, school, day care? What would work best for you?
- Hours: For many working parents, having extended hours, including evening or weekend options, is important to prevent missing school for kids or having to leave work early for parents.
- Availability: Can you get same-day appointments for unexpected illnesses? Does the practice have an online portal for you to ask questions and make appointments? Is telehealth available? All of these can affect how easily and quickly you can communicate with a provider.
- Practice size: Larger practices with multiple providers may make it easier to get an appointment, while smaller practices can help you build a relationship with a single provider.
Want a new pediatrician? It’s OK to switch
Norton Children’s Medical Group
If you aren’t building the relationship you want with your child’s pediatrician, whether it’s a trust, communication or care delivery issue, it’s OK to switch.
“As a pediatrician, it’s my role to help families raise healthy, happy children into adulthood,” said Jennifer Porter, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Novak Center. “Parents should feel comfortable talking openly with their child’s provider to ensure they are receiving the support they need.”
Norton Children’s Medical Group has more than 20 pediatrician office locations around Louisville and Southern Indiana
Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers pediatric primary care at more than 20 locations throughout Louisville and surrounding communities, including Southern Indiana. Many of our offices offer convenient weekday, evening and Saturday morning office hours, as well as same-day appointments for unexpected visits. Norton Children’s Medical Group uses MyNortonChart, which allows parents to communicate with their child’s pediatrician as well as have access to all of their child’s test results, appointments and prescriptions in one place. Additionally, video visits (telehealth) may be available at select offices.
Meeting a child’s nutritional needs
Norton Children’s Medical Group understands the lifelong implications of child hunger as well as the barriers and challenges families face. That is why we expanded our prescriptive food pantry model to select Norton Children’s Medical Group pediatricians’ offices and Norton Community Medical Associates family practice offices.
Our providers screen patients for signs of hunger and food insecurity. Providers then are able to use the prescriptive pantry to provide families with nutritionally sound food as well as information on how to get the best nutrition with limited resources. The prescriptive pantries are made possible through generous grants supported by the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Community Foundation of Louisville – One Louisville.