Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

A dear friend recently asked me what questions she should ask when looking for a pediatrician. I expected my list of questions to ask a pediatrician to be fairly short, and was surprised when it grew to include enough to become a blog post. I’ve broken the questions into three different categories. Many of these questions would be good to ask any practitioner, regardless of whom the patient is.

The Basics

I cannot stress enough that the most important factor in choosing a pediatrician is how comfortable you are with the person. Even if you disagree on some topics (which should be expected), it is important to find a pediatrician who respects your opinions and whose way of working with patients is comfortable for you. There is nothing worse than having your parenting choices criticized, ignored or condemned. Find a doc who will support you even when your choices are different from his or hers. 

Here are a few other important points to ask about:

  • Does the doctor accept your insurance and is he or she accepting new patients?
  • Does the doctor have evening and weekend office hours? If not, who takes and responds to calls during non-office hours?
  • At which hospital(s) does the doctor have privileges?
  • Does the office offer same-day appointments for sick children? (It is important to know this because no one wants to have to wait two or three days to see a doctor when your child is ill and obviously needs to be seen.)
  • How much time does the pediatrician spend with each patient? (Asking how appointments are scheduled and how much time is allotted per appointment can also help identify this.)
  • Does the office have separate waiting rooms for sick children and children who are not currently ill?
  • What lab does the doctor use? Can blood draws and other testing be done in-office?
  • How can the doctor be contacted for general questions? Is there a charge for phone calls?

More Specific Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

After learning the basics about a prospective pediatrician and his or her practice, you can then dig a bit deeper and ask more specific questions. I recommend asking:

Pediatrician and Baby

  • What is the pediatrician’s stance on breastfeeding and when does s/he recommend starting a baby on solid food?
  • Does the pediatrician support baby-led weaning, or prefer the parents force weaning at a specific age?
  • What is the doctor’s position on vaccinations? Specifically, does s/he support delayed schedules and/or not vaccinating?
  • What parenting books does the doctor recommend? Are there books s/he specifically disagrees with? (This question can provide insight into the doctor’s philosophy. It may help to ask about specific books you like or dislike.)
  • What is the pediatrician’s philosophy on antibiotics? When does s/he feel it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics?
  • How does the doctor feel diet impacts health?
  • What is the doctor’s position on co-sleeping?
  • What experience does the doctor have with food allergies? What testing does s/he use to identify food allergies? (I recommend avoiding any doctor who recommends skin testing for allergies, as that method is not as reliable as a simple blood test.)
  • Does the doctor support natural and holistic healing methods? What is his or her position on nutritional therapies? Does s/he support the use of herbs and supplements? (You may want to ask this first if you wish to find an integrative doctor who understands and supports therapies outside of allopathic medicine.)
  • What is the doctor’s position on circumcision?
  • What is the doctor’s opinion of growth charts. Will s/he compare your baby’s growth to that of other children, or simply check to ensure your child is growing and gaining weight at a sufficient pace?
  • What training in alternative healing methods does the doctor have?
  • What experience does the doctor have with delays in speech, hearing, fine motor skills, etc. What are his or her philosophies on supporting children with developmental delays? (We all hope to never need to know this information, but it may be helpful to find out in advance.)

Very Specific Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

The following questions are very specific. Some pertain to specific lifestyles, but most do not. Asking these questions may help you gain additional insight into the doctor’s philosophies and personal beliefs.

  • Ask if the doctor has children. If s/he does, ask how having children changed his or her medical practice.
  • Ask how long the doctor has been in practice.
  • Ask if the doctor specializes in any specific health or development issues.
  • Ask how the doctor feels about veganism, vegetarianism, paleolithic eating, or other eating styles.
  • Ask how the doctor feels about raw milk, organic foods, GMOs, etc.
  • Ask what the doctor’s views are on childhood obesity and how s/he feels it can best be avoided.
  • Ask whether the doctor encourages parents to have young girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.
  • Ask what the doctor’s largest concerns are for children’s health.
  • For the very brave: Ask what the doctor’s views are on healthcare reform and how s/he anticipates reform will impact his or her practice.

I highly recommend scheduling a “get to know me” visit with a potential pediatrician. During that visit, pay special attention to the office setup, office cleanliness, friendliness of the staff, condition of toys in the waiting room, etc.

That’s my list of questions to ask a pediatrician. What questions would you add to it?

Photograph Courtesy of:  Lou Bueno Photography

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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