Finding the right pediatrician for your growing family

Key takeaways:

  • Personality and approach are key to finding the pediatrician that’s right for your family.

  • Ask friends and family members who they’d recommend.

  • Find a pediatrician with a location and hours convenient to your schedule.

  • Learning about a provider’s approach, personality and availability can help you find the pediatrician of your dreams.

[4 MIN READ]

For several months, you’ve been dreaming about the day you’ll get to meet your little one. While you’re designing the nursery, creating a birth plan and registering for all those baby necessities, there’s one more important task to add to your list to prepare for your baby’s arrival – finding the pediatrician that’s just right for your family.

From the first exam in the hospital to each important well-check, you’ll want a supportive, experienced and compassionate pediatrician by your side. Some soon-to-be parents are often surprised to find that one of the best times to find that provider is before baby even arrives. Your little one will need lots of visits and care during those first few months – from weekly checkups to vaccination schedules, checking weight gain and adjusting feeding and sleeping schedules.

Finding a partner early on will help take the pressure off you and give your little one a great start to the next several months of development and growth.

Finding a partner early on will help take the pressure off you and give your little one a great start to the next several months of development and growth. One of the best places to start your search is with trusted family and friends.

“Ask around for recommendations toward the middle to end of your pregnancy or before an impending adoption – whatever the situation is that necessitates finding a new pediatrician,” encourages Katheryn Hudon, DO, FAAP, FACOP pediatrician with Providence Medical Group. “See how those suggestions compare to what’s important to you – like convenient locations, office hours and care philosophy.” These questions are also important if you have older children and you’re moving to a different city.

Read on for Dr. Hudon’s advice on how you can narrow down your search to find the pediatrician that is perfect for your family.

Personality and approach matter most

It’s pretty hard to find a bad pediatrician. Most pediatricians get into the field because of their love of kids and science. That’s why Dr. Hudon says the best predictor of fit between a pediatrician and families comes down to personality.

Finding a pediatrician that fits your approach and priorities is often the most important factor that will determine the quality of your relationship.

“Our expectations and personalities as patients can color our experience in healthcare very differently, so finding a pediatrician that fits your approach and priorities is often the most important factor that will determine the quality of your relationship,” shares Dr. Hudon.

She also encourages families to be honest: If you don’t feel like you’re “clicking” with a pediatrician – move on!

“No one is going to be offended if you look for a doctor that is a better match for your personality,” she says.

Pediatricians want you, and the children they see, to feel comfortable and confident in their care. Moving on when you know a pediatrician or practice isn’t the right fit for your family will save stress and headaches down the road.

First things first: Check on the basics

Equally important, if not even a higher priority than personality fit, is finding a doctor’s office that checks the box on some “basics” of pediatric care – like convenient hours, board certifications and more.

Here’s a quick checklist you can keep in mind as your evaluating different pediatric practices and providers.

  • Practice location: You don’t want to be taking sick kids across town for a doctor’s appointment or fighting traffic for well visits or flu shots.
  • Office hours: Extended hours in the morning, evening and weekend can be important for working parents who can’t easily take time off for doctors’ appointments. You may also want to find out if there are dedicated “sick visit” time slots that will allow you to be seen quickly for an illness or injury. Prioritize whatever kind of appointment flexibility you need for your lifestyle.

Find out if there are dedicated “sick visit” time slots that will allow you to be seen quickly for an illness or injury. 

  • Affiliations: Pediatric practices and providers are usually affiliated with a larger health system to give you and your family access to specialists when needed. Check to see if your pediatrician partners with a local children’s hospital in the area or where they refer kids who need additional care. (And make sure the system aligns with your needs.)
  • Insurance: Check to see if the pediatrician is considered in-network for your insurance. You can also ask what insurance plans they take. It’s good to know if they take a variety of plans in case you switch providers. The front office staff are well-versed in what insurance is accepted in the practice and can answer any of your questions.
  • Board certification: Physicians of any specialty go through rigorous training and are certified by governing boards through examinations and maintenance of up-to-date training. Make sure your potential doctor – and the other doctors in the practice are certified for pediatrics. Just check for “board certified” in their bios or search the American Academy of Pediatrics website for board-certified pediatricians near you.

Questions to ask a pediatrician

Once you narrow down your search to your top picks, schedule a meet and greet appointment to learn more about your child’s potential pediatrician – more than what you can find out on a website or a quick phone call. Sometimes, pediatricians are unable to meet with families until baby arrives. That’s okay, too! Ask other parents who visit the practice you’re eyeing to see if they can help fill in some of the blanks. And remember, if something doesn’t feel right when baby arrives, it’s okay to meet up with another pediatrician that better suits your family.

You can learn a lot about a pediatrician’s personality, style and approach from just a 15-minute conversation.

“You can learn a lot about a pediatrician’s personality, style and approach from just a 15-minute conversation,” shares Dr. Hudon.

Here are a few questions Dr. Hudon encourages families to ask – and often addresses in her own meetings with new parents.

What is your availability after hours?

Most practices have an after-hours phone number that parents can call if they have a concern about their child. Ask potential pediatricians how that’s staffed – and who you might expect to see if your doctor is out of the office.

Will my child always see the same doctor?

Finding the pediatrician of your dreams doesn’t do much good if you’ll be rotating between doctors every visit. Find out what the approach is within the practice and make an effort to meet the other doctors in the practice. It’s also worth asking how pediatricians share files. Before any doctor sees your child, they should have access to an electronic medical record so you don’t have to recount your child’s family and medical history during every visit.

How are sick visits handled?

It’s important to know how well the pediatrician can accommodate sick visits. Will you be able to get in the same day or is it more likely you’ll be at a nearby urgent care or clinic? Are there weekend hours or evening hours for those illnesses that pop up outside of office hours? Do they see sick patients at just one location or are sick visits available at every office?

Are there weekend hours or evening hours for those illnesses that pop up outside of office hours?

Knowing these things ahead of time can put your mind at ease and help you make decisions for treatment when those random fevers, bumps, bruises and infections come up.

Is there a nurse line?

A nurse line, staffed by practice nurses during office hours, can answer many questions parents have and help you decide if your child needs to be seen. This is particularly helpful for new parents as they navigate all the wonders and mysteries of a newborn.

What is your experience with X?

If there’s something that’s important to you and your family, bring it up.

“If you have a family full of little athletes, ask the doctor if they enjoy sports medicine,” encourages Dr. Hudon. “If they don’t know a squash ball from a pickleball, they will probably  give you the name of the colleague whose love of sports matches your own.” Even if they don’t know all of the sports terminology, you want to be sure they have experience in treating athletic injuries or have a specialist they can work with.

Find out how comfortable your doctor is treating certain conditions, like diabetes, ADHD or other illnesses, especially if you have a family history.

That’s also true for families if you have a strong family history of certain diseases or illnesses. Find out how comfortable your doctor is treating certain conditions, like diabetes, ADHD or other illnesses, especially if you have a family history.

Are procedures done in the clinic?

Practices that remove stitches, freeze warts, splint minor sprains or fractures, or do other minor procedures in the office can help save you a trip to urgent care or an ER. And this doesn’t just apply to injuries. When services like bloodwork, flu shots and even tests for the flu, strep and COVID-19 test are available at your pediatrician’s office, it makes your visit that much more convenient.  

Ask what your provider can do in-office and what types of procedures are done somewhere else.

What resources or specialties are available?

Lauren Lubin, MD, a pediatrician at Facey Medical Group, also encourages parents to find out what additional resources are available within the practice. A pediatrician that’s part of a larger health system can easily refer children and families to the specialists and resources they need to navigate a new or chronic health condition - access to the specialists and resources they may need to help navigate a new health issue.

Dr. Lubin recently sat down with The Malambris family, who recently found themselves looking for a new pediatrician, for a seven-part video series. Watch the videos, including what to look for in a pediatrician and how to find your first pediatrician.  

A final note on finding your family’s pediatrician

Dr. Hudon sees firsthand the pressure parents can put on themselves to find “The Best Everything” for their kids. She encourages parents and guardians to focus on what’s right for their family – not just the 5-star reviews, pretty waiting rooms or the highest credentials. Also, what’s right for your friend with 5 boys may not be the best for your family that has 2 girls.

“One of the things I’m passionate about in my own practice is maternal well-being, which is one of the most important factors tied to child well-being,” explains Dr. Hudon. “I am all about dropping the pressure we tend to put on ourselves to do everything Perfect – capital P.”

When you’ve found a place you can be yourself and get the support you need, that’s when you know you have a really good fit.

“So, when you’re here, you can forget your binders of information and well-intentioned advice from others on what you’re supposed to be doing. Come to us when you’re falling apart from sleep deprivation and have cracked nipples from breastfeeding. Let us help you pick up the pieces (often covered in spit-up and baby poo) of parenthood.”

“When you’ve found a place you can be yourself and get the support you need, that’s when you know you have a really good fit,” she finishes.

What do you look for in a #pediatrician? Share your tips with other moms at @providence.

Find a doctor

If you need to find a pediatrician to help your child stay healthy and well, use our provider directory to start your search for one in your area.

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About the Author

The Providence Women's Health team is committed to providing useful and actionable insights, tips and advice to ensure women of all types can live their healthiest lives.

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