As a parent, Dr. Shelley Hartman understands how important it is to have a good relationship with your children’s physician. She chose pediatrics as her specialty because of the connections she makes with her patients.
“To be a pediatrician, you’re an integral part of someone’s family and sometimes you’re part of their family for the child’s whole life,” says Dr. Hartman with Eugene Pediatric Associates. “Sometimes you’re part of their family for a brief moment in time but it’s really an important moment of time.”
When should you start looking for a pediatrician?
During your baby’s first year of life, you will see your doctor 6-8 times for well-baby checkups, not to mention unplanned visits for situations like a fever or a first cold. Choosing a pediatrician who will be there with you from the very beginning is an important decision for expecting parents.
The best time to start looking for a pediatrician is while you’re still pregnant, typically when you’re between 28 and 34 weeks along. By then, you’ve probably thought about what you want in a pediatrician, and you still have time to do your homework. However, there may be times when you need to find a new health care provider for an older child.
What to consider when choosing a pediatrician
It may be difficult to know where to start, but often your friends who have children are a great resource about local providers – with their recommendations very likely narrowing down the field.
- Attending a new-parent class or a meet-and-greet event. That’s a good opportunity to meet pediatricians and ask questions about the doctor and the clinic.
- Asking how the clinic handles phone calls for medical assistance outside regular clinic hours and who will see your child if your pediatrician is unavailable.
- Inquiring about the provider’s stance on issues that are important to you.
“Philosophically, it’s really important for you to agree with the things that your pediatrician is talking with you about and to feel free to have that conversation,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, also with Eugene Pediatric Associates. “That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, but you have to feel comfortable asking that person questions—anything, tiny, large—and feel confident that they’re actually listening to you and trying to address your concerns. I think it’s also important to ask, ‘What’s your philosophy of taking care of families?’ And let the provider talk for a little bit; find out what drives this person.”
Integrative health care matters
Another thing to weigh when choosing a pediatrician is how the provider integrates health care services. Are there avenues for mental health issues, for example?
“Integrative health care is just so important,” says Dana Boonstra, a family nurse practitioner at Eugene Pediatric Associates.
EPA is affiliated with Thrive Behavioral Health, which works with children, adolescents, parents, schools and health care providers involved with behavioral and developmental care. Eugene Pediatric Associates also provides important social work through experienced case managers.
For parents looking for the right provider, Dana says, “I think it would be very important to know the support network of the providers and of the clinic.”
Accessing information when you need it
In addition to in-person care, Eugene Pediatric Associates provides parents additional support through its comprehensive website and active Facebook and Instagram presence—places where parents can access information beyond their scheduled appointments.
One other important note in choosing a pediatrician: Once you’ve compiled a few names of doctors you’re interested in, make sure they are providers covered by your health insurance plan. Check your plan online or call your health plan provider directly.
For a list of additional questions to ask when choosing a pediatrician, click here.