Choosing a primary care pediatric healthcare provider for your baby is a big deal. You are hiring someone who you will trust to give care to your precious child in some of the most stressful, harrowing times. You need someone who is competent. You need someone who cares. You need someone compassionate who will give you the guidance and wisdom you need to get you through if your baby is sick.
Like I said, it’s a big deal. It’s a huge responsibility and not one to be taken lightly.
However, there’s more to be considered than just compassion, caring, and competence.
If you don’t have kids yet, you don’t quite realize how much your mommy instincts are probably going to kick in. You are going to have a sixth sense about a lot of things.
While you still need professional guidance for diagnostic purposes, you also are just going to know some things that need to happen. You need to find a provider who knows you aren’t a dummy and who respects your ability to discern information and make good choices for your child.
You do NOT need a provider who will treat you differently – or worse, will treat you badly – if you do not follow their recommendations. You do NOT need to be judged – or worse, turned into governmental authorities – if you decide something with which your provider does not agree. Sounds outlandish, but sadly, it happens.
The best way to make sure you have a provider who is compassionate, caring, competent, AND who respects you is to interview them BEFORE you hire them. Take the time to ask the questions that are most important to you so that you find a provider who is on the same page with your parenting philosophy.
What kinds of providers are there for children?
There are several kinds of providers who care for children and babies.
- Pediatricians are physicians who have specialized training in dealing with children. They only provide care to children.
- Family practice physicians care for people of all ages, not necessarily just children. Often you would hire this type of provider to care for the entire family.
- Nurse practitioners are nurses who have advanced education (at least a Master’s degree). Family nurse practitioners, much like family practice physicians, care for people of all ages. Pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in caring for children.
To take the first step, you just call and tell the staff that you would like to schedule a meet and greet appointment with the provider to figure out if they are a good fit for your family. Any provider who’s worth their weight will meet with you free of charge and answer your questions. As I said in my blog about interviewing obstetrical providers, if a provider won’t meet with you, I think you already have your answer for whether they are a good fit.
Before your appointment, go through the questions below and think about which ones are the most important to you. Most providers will not have time to answer every single question, so you need to prioritize and ask the questions that will gather the most information that is relevant to you and your family’s situation.
Questions for a Prospective Pediatric Healthcare Provider for your Child
- Are you accepting new patients?
- What is your philosophy of pediatric healthcare?
- How long have you been in practice?
- How long does it typically take to be seen when my child is sick?
- What are your thoughts and beliefs on vaccinations?
- Do you require vaccinations?
- If you require vaccinations, do you allow for an alternative schedule?
- What are your opinions of home birth or birth center births?
- Do you provide any special services for babies who were born out of the hospital like newborn screening or hearing screening?
- Do you require anything different of children who were born in these settings?
- Do you perform circumcisions?
- If so you perform circumcisions, where and when do you do them?
- Are you familiar and comfortable with providing care to a boy who has not been circumcised?
- Are you comfortable with me declining standard post-birth procedures like vitamin K injection, erythromycin eye ointment, hepatitis B vaccination, etc.?
- How often do you like to see a healthy child?
- What is involved in your “well-child” visits?
- What are your views of alternative medicine/natural alternatives?
- Do you offer lab services in your office?
- If you don’t offer lab services in your office, where do you send your patients for lab services?
- What after-hours care do you offer?
- Do you have office coverage if you are out of town?
- Do you have privileges at any hospitals?
- After birth, do you come see the baby at the hospital or will you first see him/her after we are discharged?
- Do you have training in any specialties?
- Do you have relationships with specialists to whom you refer patients as needed?
- What training/experience/knowledge do you have about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding moms?
- How long do you recommend a mother to breastfeed her baby?
- What are your recommendations regarding sleeping?
- Are you supportive of families who choose to co-sleep?
After the interview, you also need to ask yourself some questions.
- Do I trust this provider?
- Did this provider talk to me on my level or talk over my head?
- Did I feel rushed?
- Do I feel like this provider will trust me, as a parent, to decide what is best for my child?
- Do I have a good feeling about this provider?
- Do I have any reservations about this provider?
- Does this provider balance interpersonal relationships with providing care well?
- Did this provider have any negativity towards my questions?
- Did you enjoy your time with this provider?
- Did you have any “sixth sense” reactions to this provider?
- If your partner was with you, did he/she have any “sixth sense” reactions?
- Was the office staff nice/helpful/respectful?
- Did I like the overall feel of the office?
- Were the office and waiting area clean/neat/comfortable?
- Was there a sick and well area of the waiting room?
- Were the toys and books clean?
- Was there useful educational material available or offered?
- Did other people in the waiting room seem to be waiting a long time?
- Does this provider accept your insurance (if applicable)?
- Does the hospital with which this provider has privileges accept your insurance (if applicable)?
Use these questions to make a good decision for your child’s pediatric healthcare provider and you will save yourself from headaches of conflict or misunderstanding in the future.
Which questions in this list are most important to you? Did you ask questions that I don’t have here? Please comment below to help other moms who will read after you!