Most of us don’t think about “choosing a doctor for my baby” when we get pregnant. But one of the big surprises of parenthood is – you will have a real friend in your baby’s doctor. After all, you’ll be seeing them at least seven times in the first year of your baby’s life – and that’s just for what’s called “well child visits”!
Many babies here in Windham County go to a pediatrician for their care; others join the family practice where their moms and dads receive care. Here are some questions to ask yourself – and some to ask as you interview a doctor for your baby. You can call local offices to schedule a free “meet and greet” appointment even before your baby is born.
Consider first about your own opinions, needs and wants. After all, every doctor in town was smart enough to go through medical school and residencies! The challenge is to find one you think is great, who thinks you and your baby are great too.
First choice: Family practice, or pediatrician? If you love your family practitioner, and feel at ease with taking your baby there, that will be a great choice. Family practice medicine is based on the premise that it is a wonderful, comfortable thing for the doctor to know you, your partner and your baby, all together. A nice side benefit is that your doctor can get to know you better and see you when you are not sick!
Pediatricians focus exclusively on babies and children, up to age 21. They are going to know “what’s going around” in all the schools, because they are seeing it in their practice. In addition, babies and children are their area of expertise.
As you look at either kind of practice, here are some questions to ask at your Meet & Greet.
- Will you be working? What are the hours at the office, can you get in without taking time off from work?
- Do you have strong opinions about things? (Examples: immunizations, antibiotics, formula feeding, breastfeeding, circumcision, where babies should sleep). Talk about those at the interview! Even though in theory you would go to the doctor for medical advice, not life advice, most of us end up discussing our parenting decisions with our baby’s doctor. If you plan to be doing a lot of baby wearing (with a baby carrier, that is!) you wouldn’t want to go to a doctor that says, “Why would you want to do that?”!
- Is your own childhood pediatrician still in practice? Does that feel wonderful to you, or weird?
As far as making an informed decision about what will work for you and your baby, here are some other questions to consider.
- How long have you been in practice? (A new doctor may be more knowledgeable about newer treatments; a more experienced doctor has seen a lot. Do you like the idea of having the doctor be your mom’s or grandmother’s age, or would you prefer someone younger?)
- How do you keep up to date? Do you have something you are really interested in, or an expert on? You may be pleasantly surprised at the answers to these questions – and the doctor may be pleasantly surprised to get a chance to talk to you about her passions!
- What happens if I call the office with a question? Who would I talk to – you, or a nurse? Does someone get back to you right away?
- How many different doctors are in this practice? Would we expected to take “pot luck” on any given day? Would the doctor we chose come see our baby in the hospital? Which leads to….
- Where do you have privileges? (If you live outside of Brattleboro this is especially important to know – for example, the clinic in Londonderry has doctors with privileges in Springfield. They would not come down here to see your baby, and if your baby was sick you would be expected to take the baby there. Dr. Slowinski in Bellows Falls has privileges here, but Dr. Hall in Bellows Falls practices in Springfield. Dr. Linder, in Townsend, has privileges at Grace Cottage.)
- How are after-hours concerns or emergencies handled?
- How is payment handled?
- What are your office hours?
- Are sick children kept separate from well children in the waiting room?
- How long can I expect to wait before seeing a doctor at each visit?
Again – these are all good questions. But the biggest thing is going to be your comfort level. Do I like this office? Have I been treated with respect from the moment I made that first phone call? Have I felt rushed, or welcomed?
It’s an important decision – and worth taking the time for. Bring your partner if you can. Talk to your friends with children – you are likely to feel comfortable with the doctor they like. Find out what they like and don’t like.
It’s a small community, and our doctors here get along with each quite well. That’s a blessing! Welcome to the world of Responsible Parenthood – it’s always a journey!