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Choosing The Perfect Pediatrician - What You Need to Ask

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 1 views
By Christine Dionese

Your new baby needs an advocate and that person is you! Advocating for your child's wellness will be an ongoing project throughout their early years. Starting before they're born by choosing the perfect pediatrician will ensure your child is taken care of the way you see fit.

Thinking On It

Before combing the internet or asking other parents for their advice, begin by compiling your own personal vision of wellness. Include aspects such as, how you came to choose your own doctors, are you satisfied with your personal experiences at their offices and under their care, what type of care is most important to you, were you under their care for an emergency and how was it handled? If you answer in a less than attractive way to any of these, then jot down notes off to the side that reflect how you would have liked the situation handled or how you'd like to see your care improved.  How we care for ourselves is often reflected by how we care for our children. This list you've compiled will be a guide, helping you choose who cares for your child's wellness and how. There are other considerations to shape your decision as well.

The Basics

We once based our choices on how long the doc was in practice and if they had a really big practice, yet today, trends are changing. Older doctors may not have the expertise or exposure to new research and methods that newer, younger physicians do (not to say that this is the case of all doctors of course). A more patient focused, smaller practice environment has become quite attractive when putting our faith into the physician's hands these days as well.
A few of the basics you'll need to know just for the sake of practicality:

  • Is the physician affiliated with a practice encompassing several other physicians?
  • At what hospitals or facilities does the physician have privileges?
  • Will my physician be available after hours and if so in what capacity (phone or in person)?
  • Are there diagnostics on site?
  • What are the fees and does this physician accept insurance?

Now that you've covered the basics, it's time to ensure that your list of values and vision of wellness best reflects how your child will be cared for by their health care professionals. The following conjures up the possibilities you'll want to consider when choosing. I generally suggest interviewing several pediatricians with a short meeting before making your choice.

Reflecting a Vision of Wellness

Getting to know your pediatrician from the get go is the best case scenario. Your child is going to go through many changes between birth and 18. Developing a relationship will naturally increase your trust and confidence in your physician's care. A good physician knows this and will make an effort to provide care that reflects both your child's needs and your family values.

So, what type of care will your child be receiving throughout their early years?

More and more families are opting for integrative health care rather than leaving it all in one physician's hands. In my own practice, I refer back and forth with pediatricians, doulas, mid-wives, acupuncturists, chiropractors, obgyns, osteopaths, and child developmental specialists all of the time. Many parents enjoy a renewed sense of confidence and trust knowing that their child's providers have developed relationships and are willing to confer on health matters.

If you're choosing an integrative approach to wellness for your family, discuss this at your first meeting with the pediatrician or at your interview. You'll want to get a strong feel for their willingness to work with other physicians and what their level of understanding is concerning the other modalities your child will potentially be receiving. When signing the HIPPAA forms at my office, patients fill out a special section that lists all of their other providers. If I need to speak to or confer with these physicians on behalf of my patients' wellness I can easily arrange this. Ask your pediatrician to draw up a form that says they'll make themselves available to your child's other providers.

Ethics concerning treatment protocols

A subject of much concern and debate is the use of antibiotics and routine vaccinations. As a health care provider, I understand and share the concern to help an ailing child. Perhaps due to the pressure of wanting to please parents, antibiotics have been dispensed in largely un-warranted amounts over the past 10 years. Even with imminent concern and growing research indicating the dangers of antibiotic resistance, physicians continue to hand out prescriptions for antibiotics when several other treatments could be made available.

There's two things to gleam here. You need to be educated on the socio-cultural implications of how your child's treatment could affect their internal ecology and the physician's proclivity to seek out alternative methods of treatment. The benefit of having on site, or closely located lab facilities increases the chances that an accurate process will ensue to determine the necessity of antibiotics. Your child's illness may in fact warrant antibiotic use. With a lab on site or close by, the doctor will be able to culture a sample to determine if your child has a bacteria or virus present.

Making this immediate determination allows for the most accurate treatment. Perhaps your child has an ear ache. We've all seen children crying from a painful episode. More than half of otitis media is caused by a virus, untreatable by antibiotics, yet they still continue to be dispensed by pediatricians all around to simply comfort the emotional aspect of the illness. The psychological value of antibiotics is sometimes comforting to the doctor, knowing they've pleased their patient temporarily.  This scenario tells us you'll want to ask the pediatrician questions regarding their diagnostic and treatment protocols. Would they refer your child to an acupuncturist or Chinese medical physician to alleviate the viral symptoms or perhaps a chiropractic adjustment? It's important to understand whether your physician is capable of making a good differential diagnosis and is able to match that potential diagnosis with a suitable plan of action.

A few words on vaccinations*. Whether it's due to your faith, personal ethics, or basis of research, understanding how you weigh in on vaccinations is essential when choosing a pediatrician. Like everything else we've already discussed, be sure your pediatrician will be able to support your position on this delicate topic. If you choose to fore go vaccinations, you may need your pediatrician to act as a liaison to support your child in a public setting. See that the pediatrician has forms drawn up to reflect their position if this is a topic you're concerned with. Much of this issue is state dependent, so becoming versed in that language may be prudent.

In the emergency room

If your child gets rushed to the emergency room can you rely that your doctor knows their patient well enough to step in and help you advocate? Ask your pediatrician what the course of action is in an emergent situation. Will they understand your child's needs and act on their behalf to express the families values and ethics on treatments? When faced with a dire situation, there can be little time to think, so having pre-set plans outlined and proxies in place ensures the most open lines of communication between your child's providers.

Is this a group practice?

If you spend all of this time interviewing your potential pediatrician and then only get to see them every 5th visit you'll be wondering what the point was. When setting up your interview, ask right away if the physician shares patients with other docs or nurse practitioners. If this is the case and you're okay with this policy, ask to do a group interview. If they say they don't have enough time for these meetings, perhaps that's an indication of future care. Politely suggest that your child's wellness could depend on their ability to plan as a group and you'll be more confident if you can see that they all work together and share similar treatment values. Don't worry about sounding over-protective. It's just fine to insist on this high level of care for your child.

Don't forget to take a look around too!

Is the office clean? Does the staff appear congenial? Is there hand sanitizer in the waiting room? What about the toys? Are there piles of or neatly arranged toys, books, etc. Does the furniture appear clean and unworn. Are the restrooms and treatments rooms well kept? Just politely ask for a tour of the facilities so you can take a look around. Another consideration is the lay of the land in the waiting room. Newer, more modern offices will have separate waiting areas that allow for healthy children simply visiting for a routine check-up to stay free from exposure to possibly infectious situations.

Your child's wellness depends on you. You'll feel reassured and confident once you've met the perfect pediatrician.

This article was originally published by, and was re-published with the author’s permission. For more information on the author, Christine Dionese, click here.

Christine M. Dionese, L.Ac MSTOM is a licensed acupuncturist and clinical practitioner of Integrative Medicine. She is the president of Integrative Approach to Healing; a NY and CA based active therapies and consulting practice specializing in Traditional Chinese and Functional Medicine. Her practice highlights the exciting field of psychoneuroendocrinology, which explores the dynamic connections between immunology, endocrinology, and neuropsychology.

When not with patients and clients, you can find Christine online where she authors a health and wellness blog and is a regular contributor to WellWire. One of Christine’s passions is liberating her patients through education and awareness. Here at Natural Baby Pros she enjoys teaching parents how to be advocates while raising their children in the modern world today.

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