Baby needs a doctor
September 19, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a baby in December, which means I need to pick a pediatrician soon. What kinds of questions should I ask the doctors/staff to help me make up my mind? Any recommendations specific to Atlanta would be greatly appreciated!

As my previous posting history will tell you, I'm not big on going to doctors and don't really have a lot of experience dealing with them. But I need to pick a pediatrician, and I'd imagine I should probably check out several practices in person/interview doctors.

What should I ask the doctors and staff to help make up my mind? What do you wish you had asked before you settled on your doctor of choice?
posted by litnerd to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Ask them what happens if you have an issue after hours - is someone on call? Is it a doctor with the practice? someone else? Also ask how blood draws are done - our old pediatrican's office it was done at an outpost of the children's hospital that was in the same building as the doctor's office, and it was fabulous. You might also ask about how they do their vaccinations - at our first office, two nurses would do the shots at the same time, one in each leg, which was nice. Our office now only has one nurse. It isn't a big deal to me, but might be for some people. You might also want to discuss how much they intervene - if I child has a 102 degree fever for two days, otherwise unexplained, what do they do? Our first doctor was very quick to order tests; our new doctor has much more of a wait-and-see attitude. You have to be comfortable with whichever appropach they're taking.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:23 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's a boy and he will be uncircumcised, I would ask if the doctor has much experience with uncircumcised boys.

If you want to vaccinate on an alternate schedule, ask if they're okay with that.

Ask if they have a sick room separate from a well room, or if they have other procedures to reduce transmission of contagious illnesses in the waiting room.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:28 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]
posted by bq at 1:30 PM on September 19, 2011

A good pediatrician is going to focus on you almost as much as on the baby. Looking out for signs of postpartum depression, helping you with nursing, reassuring you that you're not a moron, etc. Personally, I'd be looking for a doc that will work with you rather than against you. Some things you might ask to feel them out:

1) Without giving anything away, ask how they handle parents that choose not to vaccinate their children. The answer to this question is going to tell you a LOT about character of the doctor. Obviously, a good doctor is going to be pro-vaccine. However, it's a bad sign if they get all bristly. It's a good sign if they are able to be rational educators, though.

2) How do they feel about co-sleeping? Again, regardless of their position, I'd hope they'd be pretty sensitive on this question.

3) Do they have an after-hours hotline? Do they do house calls?
posted by pjaust at 1:53 PM on September 19, 2011

I'm in midtown....memail me. Love my DR!!!
posted by pearlybob at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2011

24-hour nurse advice line and on-staff lactation consultant have been two pluses with my pediatrician's office that I'd recommend. We also did an extended vaccination schedule (only one shot of one type, not those huge combo shots) per visit so if that's something you're interested in definitely ask beforehand. Also if your doctor is supportive of cosleeping if you're interested in doing that.

My birth center had a nice list of peds that they'd interviewed, and the list included answers to stock questions like circumcision, vax, etc. so you may want to see if you can find a list like that for your area.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:55 PM on September 19, 2011

What should I ask the doctors and staff to help make up my mind?
dpx.mfx has some great ideas. Here is what I will add:

If you plan to breast feed, some prefer an office which has a lactation consultant on hand.

Make sure the office is close to your home. You don't want to take a puking child on a long car trip.

When do they want to see the baby once they arrive? If the answer is a week - too much can happen in a week. The newborn should be seen within days. Speaking of which - does the office have rotation at the hospital you are delivering at?

What do you wish you had asked before you settled on your doctor of choice?

Honestly my level of research went this far - a coworker's wife really liked their doctor. The doctor's office (they are apart of a larger center) had rotation at the hospital, and they were close by. We have come to appreciate the after hours care as we have used it twice.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 1:56 PM on September 19, 2011

i have lots of friends in your area...I memailed...when I get names, I'll send them along. Congrats!!
posted by pearlybob at 2:02 PM on September 19, 2011

I agree about asking about vaccination schedules. Some old school docs don't even want you asking questions about it.

One thing I like is some bigger pediatrician's offices have two waiting rooms: one for sick kids and one for well-check visits (and ours allowed you to bring newborn babies {under a month} directly back to the exam room without waiting at all).

We changed pediatricians once because they charged too many extra fees (look out for any annual value added service charges or things like that).
posted by mattbucher at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2011

It seems that online reviews and searches are often overlooked but I've had exceptionally good luck using the reviews in and Google Local judiciously (knowing they have their share of shills and axe grinding). I'd also put the doctor's name into Google (in quotation marks) and sift through that.

With Google I've often been able to get a feel for the doctor's background and personal views. In one case I found a local site where someone was mentioning the good care they got to their friends as an aside, with another I found a ranty webpage by someone detailing a case of poor care (with their story and all their documents), and with another I found the doctor listed as giving large campaign contributions to a certain candidate. Not that any one bit of info necessarily means anything by itself, but in many cases it does add up and gives somewhat of a picture of what the practice is like. Also check your state licensing board as they'll give info on where the doctor got their degree, how much experience they have, and any disciplinary actions.
posted by crapmatic at 2:19 PM on September 19, 2011

I will never again live without a 24-hour nurse line. It has now saved me two after-hours trips to the ER in two years.

We also asked some questions about our personal family histories, inheritable things that can affect children, which gave us a good feel for how the doctor handled things in general.

We go to a teaching practice affiliated with the university med school, so we get more patient education than typical, and we almost always see a med student first and THEN the doctor (we always have the choice not to see a student) so the students can practice being pediatricians. I really like being with a teaching practice because they're extremely thorough (to demonstrate for the students) and I learn a lot from the doctor too, and patient education is such a strong focus. They're also on a less-tight schedule since they're partly funded by patient fees, but partly by the university paying these pediatricians as faculty, so their appointments can run much longer. But it makes for a MUCH slower visit with the med students and everything.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:24 PM on September 19, 2011

My first suggestion would be going by the description of someone you know, or a friend of a friend. We found our pediatrician this way, from a co-worker who knew the doctor's number by heart and didn't hesitate a beat before recommending him.

When we first went in for a meet and greet, we didn't have many questions, because we had no idea what to ask. So he told us how he would handle us and our child. He has outlined what to expect, and what we might worry about, but what is going on and why we shouldn't worry. He is part of a 24-hour triage nurse line network, which we've already made use of (a few pink spots in a newborn's pee is normal, and it's not blood - 2am freakout averted). He has decades of experience, a calm and caring manner, is patient with all our questions (when we can remember them). He says he's a middle-of-the-road guy, and has hypochondriac parents and parents who don't want to vaccinate their children (though he says he continues to push the parents towards vaccines). He doesn't have a healthy kids and sick kids room, but he does have a back entrance or two, so I'm sure we might be escorted in that way for emergencies.

He also referred us to a great lactation specialist who helped my wife breastfeed, and she also reassured us that all the little things baby light thief was doing was normal. She also helped my wife with all sorts of breastfeeding tips and techniques, which has helped my wife out when she was worried about feeding our little guy enough.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2011

The suggestions above are great. Another thing I asked of my doctors was about their experience with food allergies, because of family history.
posted by freezer cake at 5:19 PM on September 19, 2011

I'd also ask your obstetrician, friends, other Moms you know and other pregnant women in your childbirth classes for recommendations.

As important as the services the doctor offers is the doctor's "bedside manner", and you want someone who will listen to and respect your concerns, explain what you need explained without rushing or pressuring you into a decision, and won't patronize you when you're worried. I have found that other Moms can be a great resource for separating the wheat from the chaff on all sorts of things, especially in the beginning when you are feeling overwhelmed.
posted by misha at 5:51 PM on September 19, 2011

Things I love about our clinic:
-- talk-to-the-nurse feature during office hours (LOVE that, helps me know when the kids really need to be seen vs. caring for them at home); after-hours we talk to the ped on call
-- several nurse practitioners on staff, two of whom are trained lactation consultants
-- sick-child appointments (they have a block of appts every day for kids who need to be seen same day)
-- location! our office is about a 15-min drive from our house
-- great web site and on-line medical records access, scrip renewals, etc.
-- Saturday hours
-- willingness to refer out to specialists when I/they feel stumped (and you can ask where they like to send patients for things like ear tubes, allergies, or other common childhood ailments)
-- drs who talk to the kids first
-- quick in and out - this can be tough for an office to manage because when kids are sick, they need to be seen, but I appreciate that my office is well run and that we're usually in and out of there with minimal waiting

I was raised by an RN and respect what traditional drs and nurses do, so for the most part I appreciate that our office is conservative. They're not adverse to alternative approaches, but they only recommend/volunteer treatments that have been tested and/or have a long track record of use. That said, the reason I switched to this office is because my previous ped made a crazy recommendation when my oldest was diagnosed with reflux (said I should stop nursing, basically). I called our office and talked to one of the nurses, who said "Um, no, we wouldn't recommend that," and they were super supportive and helped me keep nursing.

congrats and good luck!
posted by hms71 at 6:44 PM on September 19, 2011

You might not know what type of physician will best suit until you know what type of kid you have. I have a laid-back, older, experienced, rural family doctor whose laid-backness compliments mine wonderfully -- I did not think knowing what my baby weighed was important information (she kept outgrowing sleepers, right?); my daughter howled in fear at being weighed, doctor used this to teach the intern following him how to know a baby was in good health without being able to do a weight check. I am pretty sure most offices would've tried to convince me of the importance of routine weighing...

So I really like the doc, but I barely know him since my child is now four and has never been really sick, at all. Once a year we get sniffles that last 24h, and that is it. (I thank the ongoing nursing and high birth weight.) We went in for the usual vaccinations, and other than that have not had any need for our nice doctor. No idea what his after-hours answering service is like, can't imagine a situation where I would need to call to talk to a nurse. If your child is robust and you are a confident parent, you are not going to need to deal with these people that much...

Also, with stuff like

"2) How do they feel about co-sleeping? Again, regardless of their position, I'd hope they'd be pretty sensitive on this question." take on this and a number of other things is that these are not medical issues. I and my child are in there for medical care, nothing more. If you are going to find it patronising and silly if a doctor gives you parenting advice (never mind insisting that you follow it!), avoid the "I like to tell people what to do with their babies" sorts. Some people find it reassuring to have a medical professional backing their play -- but they are not child psychologists; they are doctors, and their parenting advice is not necessarily good.

Sorry this is long/disjointed; what I really wanted to say was to not stress this too much, and to feel free to switch when it's more clear what kind of parent you are and what kind of kid you have.
posted by kmennie at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2011

One thing I love about our pediatrician is that one of his favorite phrases is "totally normal, totally fine." This has been a really helpful, reassuring attitude for us since we're complete worrywart hypochondriacs to the nth degree with our son ("he breathed different, we should go to the ER"). Of course, the few times there has really been a problem, he's been thorough in listening and treating. Some people might do better with a more mother-y, touchy-feely type of doctor - I thought I would, but it's turned out pretty well the other way around.
posted by faustessa at 7:44 PM on September 19, 2011

Also, we met our doctor when he was the guest lecturer at our childbirth class. Our "interview" as I remember it mostly consisted of asking him about his favorite sports teams. So, you can end up with someone you like even if you have a pretty mediocre selection process.
posted by faustessa at 7:50 PM on September 19, 2011

Ask about his or her thoughts on sleep and its importance. Also ask about availability of someone from the office via email.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:18 PM on September 19, 2011

Most pediatricians we looked at had orientation/open house meetings for new parents, which we helpful...
After having kid number 2, most important thing to us is:

1. How easy is it to get a new appointment, can they do same day appointments...
2. Someone said earlier and i'll reiterate it, make sure they have an after hours phone line, it's worth any charge, especially if you have a baby with a sudden 105 fever at 11pm. (they scheduled me an appointment and made us comfortable.
3. we preferred a group rather than individual, our ped. is part of a group of 10 pediatricians and 4 nurse Practitioners, it's great, we can always get an appointment, even if it isn't with our preferred doctor.
posted by fozzie33 at 8:21 AM on September 20, 2011

We went to Piedmont Pediatrics in Buckhead even though we lived in Druid Hills/Decatur area. We particularly liked Dr. Harris and Dr. Elliot.

They were conservative in seeking treatment, thorough in assessing problems, and supportive of unusual decisions we made (such as homeschooling).
It is nice to be a peds office at a hospital -- when you need further tests, xrays, blood work, etc you can just walk across the street and get it. The only downside is that parking is a pain.

We could almost always get seen by one of the Drs. in the practice if we had an emergency w/in 24 hrs. They have sat. AM hours for emergencies, too. Kids like to get sick at 4pm on a Friday. :-)

Most importantly... don't stress too much over it. Most practices are fine and, chances are, as your child gets older you will only be coming in a couple of times a year for simple things like ear infections, strep throat, and yearly medicals.
posted by LittleMy at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2011

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