Choosing A Pediatrician For Your Newborn By Jennifer Shu, M.D.
Many new parents these days “interview” pediatricians to find one that suits them-even before their baby is born. After all, infants visit their doctor at least 6 times during their first year and may have this same doctor for the next 18 years or more, so it’s not surprising that some moms and dads take this decision very seriously. Here are some points to consider when looking for that good fit:
Ask around. Once you find out you’re pregnant, start checking with your friends, neighbors, family and obstetricians for recommendations. Ideally you’ll be referred to someone in your area who is well-liked, well-trained, and conveniently located. You can also check the American Academy of Pediatrics Referral Service at www.aap.org/referral, the American Medical Association’s Doctor Finder at www.ama-assn.org, your local medical society, or your insurance company.
Make sure your doctor is well trained. Pediatricians are physicians who have graduated college, completed 4 years of medical school, and have at least 3 years of “on-the-job” residency training in pediatrics. To become board certified, pediatricians must also pass a rigorous examination given by the American Board of Pediatrics. To remain board certified, most physicians have to pass a board exam every 7 years to help ensure that they remain up to date on how best to provide quality care for children.
Mark the location. Is the office easy for you to access? Since leaving the house and getting anywhere on time with a newborn is a challenge in itself, you won’t want traffic or a long distance to make a doctor’s visit too inconvenient.
Clock in. Take a look at the doctor’s office hours. Are they open early or late enough to accommodate your schedule? Do they take a long break during lunch? Are they open on weekends? Do they offer advice after hours? Babies can get sick (and parents may have questions) at any time of day or night, so you’ll want to make sure your pediatrician or a colleague will be available when you need them. Also, ask the office staff if the pediatrician tends to run on time and try to figure out the best times to schedule appointments if you want to avoid backlogs.
Meet the doctor. Many offices offer prenatal visits as a courtesy to parents looking for a pediatrician for their newborn. A good time to meet the doctor is early in your third trimester. Once your baby is born, both you and your pediatrician will be up to speed and ready for the first visit.
Check hospital privileges. Ask if the pediatrician has hospital privileges where you plan to deliver. Find out where your baby would be admitted if they need to be hospitalized. Some doctors take care of their own patients (including newborns) in the hospital; others work with hospital doctors who see children while they’re admitted and then transfer care to the pediatrician upon discharge.
Get on the same page. Perhaps the most important thing to find out is whether you and your pediatrician agree on medical treatments such as circumcision, the use of antibiotics, or giving routine vaccines. Also useful may be the doctor’s approach to breastfeeding, behavior problems and other aspects of infant care. Even if you agree to disagree on something, you’ll want to find a doctor who respects your point of view and answers your questions thoroughly.
Keep your options open. Keep in mind that choosing a pediatrician now doesn’t mean you have to stay with them forever. While it would be great to find the perfect match right away, it’s important that all parties in the physician-patient relationship feel comfortable with the fit. If you find that for whatever reason it’s not a good fit, don’t hesitate to start your search againJennifer Shu, MD, is a mother and board-certified part-time pediatrician at Children’s Medical Group, P.C. in Atlanta, GA. Her passion is educating parents on all topics related to their children. Her experiences across the country–reaching from San Francisco and San Diego to New Hampshire, where she was an instructor of pediatrics and director of the normal newborn nursery at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth–have taken her from private practice and academics to the pages of US News & World Report and national parenting magazines, newspapers and medical publications. She has been a frequent guest on national television and radio programs including the Nancy Grace Show on Headline News, CNN’s Health Minute, the Mike and Juliet Show, ParentsJournal, and Discovery Health Channel’s KidsHealthworks series.
Dr. Shu is editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book Baby & Child Health: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years (DK Publishing, 2004) and co-author of a newborn care book, Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality (AAP, 2005). Heading Home has garnered several parenting category book awards, including the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Award from Publisher’s Marketing Association and ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year 2005 First Place Gold Award. Her latest book written with co-author Dr. Laura Jana is called Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup.
About Jennifer Shu, MD
Dr. Shu has been an active leader within the medical profession as a past national chairperson of the young physicians sections for both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has been a certified child passenger safety technician and has participated in car seat installation events sponsored by the San Diego Police Department and the Injury Prevention Center at Dartmouth.
An enthusiastic and experienced writer and public speaker, Dr. Shu is currently a member of the Parents magazine Board of Advisors and an editorial advisor for the AAP’s Healthy Children doctor’s office publication. She is a consultant for a parenting web site, a health video production company, and various manufacturers in the juvenile product, food and beverage industries.
Dr. Shu received her bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Virginia and attended medical school at the Medical College of Virginia. She completed her pediatric training at the University of California in San Francisco, where she also served a year as chief resident, performing educational as well as administrative duties for the residency program.