Choosing a local pediatrician that suits your family’s needs is a daunting task—chiefly because NYC offers a range of stellar healthcare pros and because every child and every family’s needs are distinct. That said, we turned to some respected experts in the medical field for their advice on choosing a pediatrician.
“The internet is not the best place to get information, because it’s anonymous and a lot of people share grievances [more than the] positives,” says Dr. Liza Natale of Pediatric Associates of NYC. So what’s a parent to do?
The first step is to get some recommendations. Natale suggests checking with fellow parents who have already chosen a pediatrician or getting a list of personally approved doctors from your own physician. If you’re consulting friends, Dr. Michel Cohen of Tribeca Pediatrics recommends asking about their doctors’ availability. “How fast do you get answers when you visit, and, in an emergency, will you really be able to reach your pediatrician?” he asks.
Another great starting point in your search is to ask your OB-GYN, says Dr. Deena Blanchard of Premier Pediatrics, who also notes that it’s great to get a jump on finding a peditrician while you’re expecting.
“You should ask your OB-GYN. Most OB-GYNs will have good lists of pediatricians in their area,” she says. “It’s good to start to start looking on the earlier side, so you can meet with the pediatrician prior to having a new baby.”
Additionally, Dr. Judith Goldstein of Global Pediatrics notes the increasing presence of “group practices.” This means that doctors share on-call shifts at night, on weekends, and during holidays—so taking more than 30 minutes to call back for an emergency isn’t acceptable.
Other times, it’s about who you can get in with in the first place. Check various pediatric offices for group visits and presentations, free meet-and-greets, and other prenatal-specific services.
Once you have one doctor (or a few) in mind, set up a first visit. At the office, you assess fit factors as simple as the look and feel of the space. While cleanliness and organization are musts, a welcoming set-up can help relax anxious children. Ultimately, the key questions you’re asking while visiting an office revolve around the practice’s struture, Blanchard explains—especially in terms of policies and office hours. But those shouldn’ t be the only items on your checklist.
“Most importantly, you want to ask: Do you like the person? Do you feel like they’re somebody that you could see regularly?” she says, adding that it’s worth noting how the pediatrician interacts with the rest of the staff in the office, and how the staff interacts with each other.
Another important piece is patience. A doctor should be open to questions without making parents feel silly, Natale says. Cohen, however, notes that some parents do find it reassuring to have a more authoritative sounding board.
The one thing to get a second opinion on, Cohen cautions, is medication. “It gets tricky if you ask their approach and they say that they try to be very hands off—when in reality they’ll prescribe medication every visit.”
At the end of the day a level of comfort and trust needs to exist with the pediatrician you choose. “Assure yourself that this is someone you can really work with—someone warm and flexible,” Goldstein says. After all the basics check out, it’s like all other important choices in life—it comes down to intuition.