Choosing a Pediatrician

Written By: Women and Infants on September 1, 2020

Pregnancy is an exciting time, filled with anticipation, excitement, and much preparation. There is so much to consider when planning the arrival of your baby. One of the most important decisions you will make is choosing a pediatrician for your baby.

While every pediatrician is dedicated to helping new parents to raise healthy children, many pediatricians have different approaches and styles. There are several options available when choosing a pediatric provider for your baby. Some parents choose to see a family practitioner or nurse practitioner. This information is a guide to help you find the pediatric provider that best meets your family's needs and preferences.

For information on choosing a pediatric care provider, call our Care New England Access Center at (401) 227-3669.

What is a pediatrician's role?

  • To make sure your child is growing well, eating well, and is healthy.
  • To update immunizations.
  • To track your child's growth and development.
  • To find physical problems before they become serious.
  • To help inform you on how to keep your child healthy and safe.
  • To prescribe medication and treat your child when he/she is ill.
  • To answer all your questions.
  • To interact with specialists if your baby is sick.

When should I start looking for a pediatrician?

Choose a pediatrician while you are still pregnant. Start looking for a pediatrician when you are between 24 and 32 weeks pregnant. Some women will deliver before their due date, and this gives you time to meet a few different pediatricians and choose the one best for you.

It is important that your obstetrician, midwife or caregiver knows the name of the pediatrician you have chosen. This information will be added to your prenatal record.

How do I find a pediatrician?

  • Ask a friend.
  • Ask a relative.
  • Ask your obstetrician, midwife, or caregiver for recommendations.
  • Call the Physician Referral Health Line at Women & Infants Hospital at 1-800-921-9299.

Set up a "get-acquainted" appointment with several pediatric providers to determine how comfortable you feel with each. Interview visits may not be covered by your insurance. Ask whether he/she charges for the visit, and, if so, what the fee is.

What do I look for in a pediatrician?

  • Do I want a "take charge" doctor? This style would meet the needs of parents who are eager for expert guidance.
  • Do I want a doctor who welcomes my involvement in the decision-making process? This style would meet the needs of parents who have strong opinions and want a doctor who will support their philosophies.
  • Do I want a group practice or someone who practices alone?
  • Do I want a male or female doctor?
  • What hours and location would be convenient for me?
  • Do I want a doctor who is also a parent?
  • Does the age of the doctor matter to me? Some parents prefer an older doctor; some prefer a younger one.

If my friends or relatives recommend someone, what questions should I ask them about the doctor?

  • Are all your questions answered by the pediatrician and office staff?
  • Do your children like the doctor?
  • Does the pediatrician talk to the children and care about them and not just the parents?
  • Does the pediatrician seem to know about current issues and advances in pediatric medicine?
  • How helpful and friendly is the office staff?
  • How well does the office staff handle your telephone calls? Are calls returned quickly? Are questions answered thoroughly?
  • How does the office handle emergencies, weekend and evening calls?
  • How long do you have to wait before you see the pediatrician?
  • Is there anything about the pediatrician or office that bothers you?
  • Are your appointments rushed?
  • Does the doctor inform you of potential risks and side effects of medications and procedures?

What questions should I ask the office when I call?

  • What are the office hours?
  • Do you have evening, early morning, or weekend appointments?
  • How does the office handle billing?
  • Is payment due at the time of visit?
  • Does the office accept my insurance plan, HMO, or PPO?
  • How are insurance claims handled?
  • If my child is sick, how quickly will you schedule an appointment?
  • What do I do in an emergency?

What should I look for at the office?

  • Is the waiting area clean and child-friendly?
  • Is the waiting area crowded? If so, this could mean the staff is over-booking.
  • Are there a lot of sick children in the waiting area, or are there arrangements to separate the sick children from the well-child checkups?
  • Do I feel comfortable and welcome there?

What questions should I ask the pediatrician?

  • What is your background (where did you go to school, where did you do your residency, have you practiced anywhere else)?
  • Do you have a sub-specialty training or areas of pediatric interest? If so, what is it?
  • How do I reach you after hours or during an emergency?
  • Who covers for you on weekends, evenings, and days off?
  • What hospital do you admit patients to?
  • If I have a minor question, what is the best time to call?
  • If I cannot speak to you, who will handle my questions?
  • Are you board certified through the American Academy of Pediatrics?
  • What are your feelings and philosophy concerning breastfeeding?
  • What support do you offer for breastfeeding mothers?
  • What is your philosophy on discipline, circumcision, and weaning?
  • Do you have advice readily available for behavioral problems/questions, parenting skills, and physical care of my baby?
  • What arrangements do you make in your office for children who are sick? Is there a separate waiting room for them?
  • How do you feel about parents obtaining a second opinion?
  • Do you have children?

How do I make my final decision?

  • Which doctor made me feel most comfortable?
  • Which office was the most pleasant and receptive to my call? Which put me most at ease?
  • Which office had the shortest wait?
  • Which doctor seemed the most open to my questions and concerns?
  • Did a doctor seem bothered by my "little questions" as an expectant parent?
  • Which doctor was the most compatible with my philosophy and beliefs about parenting?

Information compiled from:
The American Academy of Pediatrics: You and Your Pediatrician
How to Find a First-Rate Pediatrician (Oct., 1998), Good Housekeeping.
How to Find the Perfect Pediatrician (Mar., 1998), Parenting.