Choosing a pediatrician can be a tricky process. Ultimately, your goal is to find someone with whom you can develop a lasting relationship built on trust and mutual respect. It's the same formula as in all good relationships, but the steps to get there are different.
First, try to determine what you want in a pediatrician.
Are you more comfortable with a doctor who is no-nonsense and businesslike, or do you need a more empathetic style? Do you frequently read blogs or other Internet health information that challenges conventional medical treatment? If so, you'll need a doctor who is comfortable discussing those issues. Do you want to talk to a doctor when you have issues outside of office hours or are you comfortable talking with a nurse?
If you have a newborn, you may want to know the doctor's views on breast feeding vs. formula. Do you want someone who is knowledgeable about nutrition, supplements and complementary medical care? You may want to know the doctor's approach to discipline and behavior challenges to see if they fit with yours. Do you want someone easygoing or action-oriented?
Does age, sex, religion or race matter? I know it's not PC to admit that those things may play a role in your ability to trust and communicate openly with someone, but for many people they do, so be honest with yourself.
Once you've chosen a doctor who matches your needs, some things you should expect are:
It will help your doctor feel respected if you are considerate of his or her time. Many practices schedule appointments every 10 to 15 minutes. If time is running short and your questions can wait, ask your doctor if you should schedule another appointment in a few weeks to finish your discussion. In most cases, the doctor will finish the discussion right then, but he or she will appreciate your consideration.
Respect your pediatrician's knowledge and advice. He or she shares your devotion to your child's health. Even if you don't agree with your doctor's recommendations, remember that most medical decisions are based on our current understanding of the science of children's health.
Doctors really appreciate parents who are active participants in their child's health care. You should know your child's medications and understand what they are for, give them as prescribed, and come back for a return visit when recommended.
Relationships take time to build. In these days of changing health care plans and preferred providers, it can be hard to maintain a long-term relationship with one pediatrician.
But knowing your doctor well-and allowing your doctor to know you and your child well-will help you to get the best care possible.
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.