Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

The following questions and points to consider can help guide your selection of a pediatrician:

  1. What is the provider's educational background? Children's doctors may have specialized training in pediatrics or family medicine. Pediatricians have completed specialized training in pediatrics following graduation from medical school, while family physicians have experience and training in treating all family members for routine illnesses, preventive medicine, and checkups. Almost all practicing physicians in the U.S. are board certified, meaning they have passed a proficiency examination in their field of training. They may be certified in either pediatrics or family medicine.
  1. Is the doctor in good standing? A Web site run by administrators of several state medical licensure boards known as Administrators in Medicine can provide information about disciplinary actions taken or criminal charges filed against physicians in some states. Individual state medical licensing agencies also have Web sites that will be able to give you more information about how to determine whether a doctor is in good standing in his/her state of practice.
  1. How do other families feel about dealing with this pediatrician or practice? Try to talk to several families who have experience with any pediatrician you are considering.
  1. Where is the practice located? Does the practice have multiple offices? You may want to consider your priorities when choosing a practice location. Should the office be close to home, work, or school? Is it easy to park and enter the office, even with an ill baby or young child?
  1. What is the policy of the practice regarding appointments? Talk to other families who have experience with the practice or try to speak with families in the waiting room. How long must you wait for an appointment for routine examinations? Is ample time allocated for same-day visits in the case of acute illnesses? How long are typical waiting times before you are seen by a doctor? Some pediatric practices offer walk-in services as well as appointments. Is this service important to you?
  1. Is it easy to call the practice? Are your calls handled promptly and courteously? Does a doctor or nurse return your call promptly?
  1. At which hospital(s) does the doctor have admitting privileges? Do these hospitals have emergency facilities? Decide whether you would be comfortable with your child receiving treatment at the hospital(s) where the doctor practices, should the need arise.
  1. Will your child always be seen by the same practitioner? Who covers when he/she is away? Is someone from the practice always available for night and weekend coverage, or will you be referred to another practice?
  1. If your child needs x-rays, laboratory studies, or other tests, can these generally be done in the same location as the practice, or must you take your child to a hospital or outside laboratory?
  1. Does the practice have separate waiting facilities for sick and well children to help prevent spread of contagious diseases?
  1. Is the practice a pleasant, reassuring place for children to be? Does the atmosphere feel welcoming or frightening to young children? Are there books and toys to keep waiting children occupied? Do the practice employees seem to relate well to children? Are children's toilets, diaper-changing rooms, and other facilities designed with your comfort in mind?
  1. Does the office process insurance claims, or must you pay up-front for services and file the claims yourself? Is there an extra charge for completion of school or sports physical examination forms?
  1. Does the practice seem like a good "fit" for you and your child? Is your child comfortable with the doctor and staff? Try to talk with any pediatrician you are considering and introduce your child to him or her. Are you happy with the doctor's manner and communication style?

For more, please visit the Children's Health Center.

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