Choosing a Pediatrician

Some time during your pregnancy, make an appointment to meet with one or more pediatricians in their offices. Ask you friends, relations or obstetrician to identify individuals they know and respect. The prenatal pediatric visit gives you a chance to get an impression of the office setting, including the waiting area, to learn about the availability of the individual doctor or the group in an emergency, to ask about their philosophy and support for certain feeding and child care practices, to discover the doctor’s (and the staff’s) special medical interests and expertise in child behavior and development, and to see how the doctor blends with your own style and personality.

During a 15-20 minutes interview, plan to ask the doctor the following questions:

  • When are your office hours? (Do they fit with my own schedule?)
  • Whom can we see after office hours?
  • When can I reach you and your staff by telephone?
  • How much time do you schedule for office visits?
  • What hospital do you use when children need urgent or complex care?
  • How frequently do you schedule well child visits in the first year?
  • How do you support breast feeding efforts and difficulties?
  • How much developmental guidance do you provide at each visit?
  • How comfortable are you in helping us with any behavioral problems that may arise?
  • What’s your advice about working and parenting?
  • How well do you know the infant and toddler programs in the community?

While you’re visiting, observe if the waiting area is clean, bright, colorful, playful, safe and calm. Get a sense for how much the staff enjoy their work with children. Note, also how interested the doctor is to ask you questions about yourselves, your health, your pregnancy and your expectations about your child.

Having already started a comfortable relationship with your pediatrician, you will feel more relaxed and confident about approaching childbirth and the life-long devotion of parenting. Best wishes.
Courtesy of Peter A. Gorski, M.D., M.P.A., Director of Program Impact and Innovation at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Professor of Public Health, Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

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