Selecting a pediatrician for my unborn child is one of the things in life that has made me feel like an official grown up. It’s right up there with buying my first non-IKEA piece of furniture and spending a Friday night at Target. The burden of responsibility to choose the physician who will treat, diagnose and care for our daughter when she is sick is not one to be taken lightly.
In Baltimore, it is common to set up “meet and greet” appointments with pediatricians. These appointments are typically free of charge and last between 15-30 minutes. The goal of the meeting is to get to know the doctor’s personality and views on important subjects, such as breastfeeding and vaccinations. For me, it is also a time to evaluate the cleanliness of the toys in the waiting room, scrutinize the front desk staff’s kindness level and determine if it’s possible to envision this particular human being sticking needles into my child.
Interviewing pediatricians is like online dating: you read their profile on a website, then you judge them by their headshot and where they went to college. I set up three pediatrician interviews over the course of two weeks and began trekking all over town to appointments. Here’s where meeting pediatricians stops being like online dating: the first appointment was at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, and I brought my husband.
Dr. #1: The large, perfect practice. Dr. #1’s office was like a pediatrician’s office in a movie. The office, headed by a large hospital’s chief of pediatrics, has bright red chairs in the waiting room and a never-ending hallway of identical exam rooms. The doctor was bubbly, friendly and receptive to all of my questions. When we left, we were kind of like, why do we need to meet anyone else? But I was determined to gather a fair sample.
Dr. #2: The retro practice: Dr. #2’s office was very green and very 1970s feeling. Green tile, green walls and green chairs filled the waiting room. There weren’t any toys, just a big bin of old, gross books. I felt like I was in a pool that hadn’t been treated with chlorine for three weeks. The doctor was serious and monotone. She seemed like a capable, smart doctor, but I could tell early in the conversation that it wasn’t going to work.
Dr. #3: The young, energetic doctor in a small practice: Dr. #3 met us at the end of the day and was in no rush at all. She made us a little list of her must-haves to put on the baby registry. She walked us around, showed us different areas of the practice and then chitchatted in the waiting room for 10 minutes afterwards. Although I wasn’t crazy about the small-practice feel at first, I started to see the benefits as she took her time talking with us.
I did several Google searches on “types of questions to ask a potential pediatrician” beforehand, preparing questions about insurance, billing, scheduling and the like, but the main questions I wanted to know were:
- When my daughter is sick, will I talk to a doctor to determine if I should come in, or will I talk to support staff?
- Will you be supportive of breastfeeding efforts? I asked the question in a way to filter out a doctor who would be quick to suggest formula if breastfeeding had its normal challenges. My main reasoning for this was I want a doctor who will push me to keep going even if it’s hard.
- What is your stance on vaccinations? I don’t particularly want to bring my child to a doctor’s office where there are unvaccinated children running around. I want a doctor who is going to promote and require her patients to be vaccinated.
These are just the specific questions that I had; I’m sure every mom has her own list of concerns. So, who did we choose? At the end of the day, we made our decision with our gut feeling. While Doctor #1 had the perfect office, Doctor #3 had the perfect personality, even offering the ability to text her if we had an urgent question. Doctor #3 was the clear winner in our search. At a certain point during the interview, I just had a feeling that we would be seeing her again! Plus, her waiting room there had the best toys, AND a saltwater fish tank.