What to look for in a pediatrician…

Rachel and Justin Smith

Rachel and Justin Smith

One of the most difficult things for us as a family about leaving Abilene was the inevitable question of who Justin’s patients should use as their family pediatrician. It’s a tough question; who you choose to doctor your child is a tough choice for all of us. And, yes, we just had to do this again, as well. {Thanks, UT Southwestern, for the fantastic medical ethics class that you put your med students through that now means we can’t use Daddy as our doc….} The relationship you have with your child’s pediatrician should be one founded on trust and an understanding that your doctor wants your children to be just as healthy as you do. These doctors got into medicine to further the health and wellness of children, and they see it as their job to do just that with each and every family that walks into the waiting room. It’s part of the oath all doctors take, but pediatricians have a special propensity in seeking health because they are in on the ground level; their patients are brand new! In a place as special to our family as Abilene, it’s that much more difficult because your doctor isn’t just your doctor during well visits, but your doctor in hospital stays as well. So, here are some things to look for and ask about when considering who you’ll pick as your pediatrician.

1)   Their training. Were they trained at a place where they were exposed to all sorts of illnesses and that fostered their exposure to identifying even the most rare of illnesses? You can ask them, but you can also look up where they were trained and see how big of a program it was based on how many residents were there, and ask around about how good training programs are. Even if the training program wasn’t a large program, did they take a leadership role, or were they offered one?

1a) In their training, will they always give your child medicine, even if it isn’t called for? Will they allow your child to try to try to fight infections before giving medicine, if that’s what you’re wanting? Will they tolerate you giving your child treatments that they know aren’t good for it?

2)   Their team.  Are they practicing with other doctors who they can ask when they need help? Who will see you when your doctor is unavailable? Do you trust those doctors with your child, even for a single (most likely ill) visit? I have huge loyalty here because of how well Justin’s office treated us as a family, my kiddos and how they helped Justin develop from a baby pediatrician to one who is ready to practice and train others. You can read more here.

3)   Their tolerance. Will your doctor tolerate your questions when you’re asking humbly and trying to understand? Will he or she be longsuffering with you when you need to ask, again, why a medication is necessary or why your child isn’t getting one? And, your questions about their training and team?!?! As you seek to choose a doctor, he or she should be able to answer these questions, at the very least. If s/he isn’t willing to, how do you think this doctor will handle your questions about medications, late night calls, etc?

Now, it’s easy for me to sit behind my computer screen and type these things because, when I have a question, I simply shout, “Hey, Babe…”. I have no idea how I would survive as a parent who is not married to a pediatrician. Case in point, I had to take care of the kids for two weeks while Justin was finishing up in Abilene. I was LOST. So, please know that you’re not alone but that choosing a doctor for your family is difficult. I know that, but when you ask me, these are the things I know make a difference.

After you consider the aforementioned three points, the other things I’d say specific to Abilene is to consider what hospital your pediatrician admits to. Of course, I’m loyal to Hendricks; they were wonderful to our family and to our friends and to Justin’s patients. {For more info, see Justin’s blog post here.} Not only that, but they have a whole floor for pediatrics. Your kids will be taken care of by nurses who are trained in pediatric care, not just nursing. Plus, the rooms are HUGE and I’m partial to the play area for kids. It’s got karaoke.

Also, does the office staff work diligently to get your child in on the same day he or she wakes up or comes home from school ill, or will they send you to a walk-in clinic? {For more info on that, see Justin’s post here.} We’ve all had kids wake up sick, we’ve all had a kid come or be sent home from school sick and need to be seen. How will your pediatrician of choice respond when this happens? Is there opportunity for you to be seen on the weekends, should that happen? When you call after hours, will you be given opportunity to speak to the doctor if you think your child warrants it?

No office or staff is perfect. No phone line is perfect, every office staff and doctor should be allowed to have bad days. But, on the whole, I think that these things are the minimum of care allowable for kids, our kids. We worked hard to have them, to raise them, and to keep them well. It’s my opinion that your doctor should, as well.  All doctors are not created equally; if so, I wouldn’t know that the phrase “D still equals M. D. ‘ exists at even the best medical schools.