Choosing a Pediatrician

Choosing a pediatrician might not appear to be important early in pregnancy, but selecting a pediatrician is very important. Many women begin their search for a pediatrician during their second trimester of pregnancy.

What is a Pediatrician?

A pediatrician is a medical doctor that specializes in the care of infants, adolescents, and children as old as 21. Many pediatricians are also trained in subspecialties such as neonatal medicine and cardiology.

What services do Pediatricians provide?

Pediatricians provide preventive care to healthy children and medical care to children with illnesses. The care they provide includes physical, mental and emotional support. Most pediatricians offer a variety of services for children and their parents.
Services may include:

  • Evaluating a child’s growth and development
  • Education about children’s safety, lifestyle, and breastfeeding
  • Administering immunizations
  • Detecting problems such as developmental disorders and behavioral difficulties
  • Diagnosing common illnesses such as ear infections and stomach flu
  • Prescribing medications

How are Pediatricians trained?

Pediatricians must complete the requirements set by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) including:

  • Graduation from an approved medical school
  • Three years of pediatric residency training

After completing residency training, pediatricians must pass a test administered by the American Board of Pediatrics in order to become board certified. Pediatricians must be re-certified every seven years.

How do I choose the right Pediatrician for my child?

Asking friends, relatives and your prenatal care provider for referrals is a good start. The write down the important questions that need to be answered such as whether you prefer a male or female pediatrician or the approximate age of the pediatrician (if it matters to you).

Scheduling interviews with more than one pediatrician might seem to be unnecessary but it is worth taking the less than 10 minutes for a brief interview in order to get a “feel” for his/her personality and approach.

Questions to ask my friends and relatives about their Pediatrician:

  • Do you feel rushed at your appointments?
  • Are all your questions and concerns addressed by your pediatrician?
  • Do your children like their pediatrician?
  • How are emergencies handled on the weekend or after hours?
  • Does the pediatrician include you in the decision-making process?
  • Does your pediatrician explain the side effects and risks of various medications?
  • Does your pediatrician respect your opinion? For example, how does your pediatrician respond if you choose not to vaccinate your child?

Questions to ask the Pediatrician:

  • What is your educational background and training?
  • What hospital would you admit my child to in an emergency?
  • What is your philosophy about breastfeeding?
    For example, do you make referrals to lactation consultants?
  • Do you have separate waiting areas for sick and healthy children?
  • What is your philosophy about circumcision and the use of antibiotics?
  • If you are unavailable when I call, will your nurse be available?
  • Does your office accept my insurance plan or make other payment arrangements?

Do I have to choose a Pediatrician? Can my child see a different health care provider?

A pediatrician is not the only health care provider trained to see babies, children, and adolescents. Some parents prefer a general practitioner, family physician or chiropractor. The same parents might visit a pediatrician only if their child experiences a serious medical problem or complication.

Want to Know More?

Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics

2. American Board of Pediatrics

3. Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island