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Pediatrician questions

Choosing a Pediatrician

by Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP
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It's recently become a trend for parents to interview pediatricians to find the one that best suits them. This is understandable, as you can expect to pay a visit to your chosen healthcare provider at least six times during your baby's first year — and that's just counting the usual number of well-baby visits. The second or third trimester of pregnancy is an ideal time to start considering whom you want to serve as your baby's health care provider, whether it's a pediatrician, family physician, or nurse practitioner. Ask around to find out who in your area is well liked, well trained, and conveniently located. In addition to friends, family members, and neighbors, obstetricians and newborn nursery staff are often great resources for recommendations.

Scheduling a Visit with a Potential Doctor

Once you have found a potential doctor, call the office to see if it's possible to schedule a prenatal or a "meet the doctor" visit. Sometimes these are group visits for a number of prospective parents considering the practice. These visits are often free, but you'll want to ask if there's a charge (and see if it's covered by your insurance).

If you decide to take your baby to a healthcare provider who does not make hospital rounds where you plan to deliver (or where your baby may be admitted if necessary), your child will still be seen and evaluated by a qualified physician at the hospital. On discharge from the hospital, you can proceed to arrange all of your follow-up visits with your chosen provider.

Things to Consider when Choosing your Baby's Doctor

Insurance: Be sure to ask if the doctor accepts your insurance. The reality of managed health care these days is that your insurance carrier may well dictate which physicians and practices you can take your child to and which ones you can't.

Location and Access: While many parents say they'd be willing to drive to the ends of the earth for their favorite doctor, chances are good that when given the choice, a location close to home or work is preferrable. Find out whether the practice has office hours that suit your needs. If your schedule is not very flexible, you may want to look for a practice that offers weekend hours and/or stays open late on weekdays. Make sure that the office you choose also has qualified members of their staff available to answer your questions during regular business hours, and clear instructions as to what to do in the event of an after-hours question or emergency.

Other Doctors in the Practice: If you are considering a group practice, ask how many days a week the practitioner you're interested in seeing works, and if you'll be able to request visits with that person whenever he or she is in the office. You'll also want to make sure that you are comfortable with the other practitioners who will take over when yours is not available.

Personal Preference: When it comes to making a decision, remember that you'll want to choose a doctor whose style best suits your own needs and who is going to be a supportive partner in your exciting and educational journey through parenthood.

If at any time you feel the partnership is not a good fit, you can always make a change. Good luck!  
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Meet Our Expert
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician & CNN Health Columnist
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a mother and practicing pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia. A frequent guest on national and local television, radio, and web-based programs, she is medical editor in chief of HealthyChildren.org, is the Living Well health expert for CNN.com, contributes medical information to WebMD.com, and serves on the Parents magazine advisory board.

Dr. Shu also coauthored the award-winning books: Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup and Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

She has chaired the young physicians sections for both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association and formerly served as director of the normal newborn nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
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Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP