New parents have a lot of questions. Two of the most common are when to start looking for a pediatrician and how to find a pediatrician.

Honestly, it’s never too early to start looking for a pediatrician. Once you know you’re pregnant, go ahead and start the search. However, first be sure you understand the difference between a pediatrician and a family medicine doctor. Pediatricians have three years of specialized, child-focused medical training after completing medical school. Family medicine doctors have three years of training after medical school in the care of all family members.

Start by asking for recommendations from close friends, co-workers or neighbors with children. Specifically ask them what they like about their pediatrician. Gather a few names, then call the clinic and ask to meet with the doctor. Many clinics offer a free “meet and greet appointment” to see if you connect with the doctor on a personal level. Make sure the location is convenient, and talk to the staff at the clinic too. Happy and helpful staff will tell you a lot about the service experience you’ll receive.

When you meet with the doctor, bring a list of questions. Consider gathering information about:

  • Education: What is the doctor’s training? What is his or her previous experience?
  • Communication: Is the doctor a good listener? Does the doctor try to understand your concerns. Does the doctor offer educational information and care options?
  • Scheduling: Does the doctor tend to overbook appointments to fit in more patients? Can he or she spend enough time with you and your child so appointments aren’t rushed?
  • Emergencies: How do you reach the covering doctor during off hours?
  • Reputation: What are other parents saying about their experiences with the doctors in the practice?
  • Practice: Consider how the size of the practice might affect your family. You might find a large practice to be impersonal or busy, but there will always be a doctor available to see your child. Choosing a small practice might allow the doctors and staff better opportunities to get to know your family. However, it may be harder to get an appointment at a small practice depending on the doctor’s availability and the number of patients in the practice.

Many websites now rate and score a doctor’s performance. While these may be a source of information, it’s important to know that they’re not regulated and can be subjective. The best way to check into a doctor’s background is to contact the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.

All parents want the perfect pediatrician for their child. Ultimately, it depends on how the doctor makes you and your child feel. Even though it requires some effort to find your perfect fit, the payoff is definitely worth it.

Anna Rakovshik, MD~ Anna Rakovshik, MD, pediatrician, North Shore Pediatrics

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin offers 20 primary care offices throughout southeast Wisconsin, including North Shore Pediatrics in Mequon, Wis.

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