Every year I do handfuls of meet and greets, prenatal consultations, and talking with perspective families considering our office. More people should take advantage of the opportunity to talk with the physician before choosing a pediatrician. Consider it a speed dating experience of sorts: 10-20 minutes to ask questions and listen for answers. Obviously more serious, but at the end of it, you should be able to walk away knowing if this physician could possibly be someone you trust to care for your child.
Finding a physician can be an overwhelming task because there’s so many to choose from. A good place to start is by asking your friends. Just like with dating, some of the best experiences come when our friends set us up.
I ask most families who come to our office, “How did you hear about us?” The most popular answer is, “A friend recommended you.” Ask your social media friends, family, and close friends who they see and why they like them. Although everyone has different wants and needs, this is a great way to create a short list to investigate further.
Your friends are also a great source to find out the pros and cons of the doctors’ offices. It’s kind of like the background check you’d likely do if being set up on a blind date. How’s the staff? Is there a long wait? Is it easy to get an appointment? The physician can answer these questions, but personal experience may tell a different story.
Meeting in-person matters
You wouldn’t just date someone over the phone. Most offices provide an opportunity to meet the physician one-on-one or in a small group. Usually this is a courtesy service, and there’s no charge, but either way, I suggest you do it. Going to meet the physician before an appointment and looking at the office doesn’t mean it will be a perfect fit, but at least you’ll have a fairly decent idea of what you’re getting into.
Bring your questions to the meeting. Typically you’re given somewhere between 10-20 minutes to meet the physician and get the answers you need. They might have questions for you, too. The goal is a brief introduction and an opportunity to see if this relationship might work for both parties.
Things to consider
What’s your first impression? Does the physician smile when they come in and put you at ease? Or is he or she abrupt and seem in a hurry? Notice if they’re giving you eye contact and answering your questions, or are they dismissive? Even though physicians are often pressed for time, we should take your concerns seriously.
The most important relationship is the one with the physician, but don’t forget to check out the staff, too. It’s like dating someone and never meeting the extended family. You’re not only marrying the person or choosing a doctor; it’s a package deal. The physician and the staff come together. If they aren’t professional when you call the office, you don’t get return calls, they appear like they don’t like what they’re doing, or your friend talks about them being harsh, stay away. It’s part of the experience. And if you’re having a baby, you’re going to be in the office frequently the first few years. It should be a pleasant experience. Not perfect but definitely pleasant.
Understand how the office operates
Is there a late policy? Does the doctor usually run on time? If the doctor is not available, who will you see? Are there physicians or nurses available after hours or during the day to answer questions? If your child has to be admitted to the hospital, where would they go and who would care for them?
Ask about key topics that resonate with you: what’s their stance on vaccines? Do they offer breastfeeding support? How does the physician feel about alternative medicine?
Having answers to these questions can help reduce the chance of conflict down the road in your relationship. In the dating game, they would likely be considered the deal breakers.
At the end of the day, go with your gut. Even if the physician is giving all the right answers but something feels off, trust it. Most of us have dated someone whose resume seems perfect, our friends loved them, and yet, we just didn’t click. It’s OK.
Choosing a physician is a personal choice. If you continue your pursuit, you’ll find the physician that’s right for you. The key is comfort and open communication, which can only come if there’s mutual trust and respect. Ask questions and listen for responses. If the physician says something you don’t agree with, you should be able to have a conversation about it and come to a resolution. If one of you is unable to hear and listen, your relationship won’t last.
Date around if you need to, but make sure you take the time to find the pediatrician who’s right for your family.