Family Matters: How to Choose the Right Doctor for Your Child

Picking a doctor or medical care provider for your child is an important choice that can affect your child’s health and happiness. Here are some simple ways you can narrow the field and make the right choice:

At some point your child will need medical care. That’s a given. And besides being crucial to the health of your child, trips to the doctor can be stressful, intense times for kids. For these reasons, you need to choose a doctor wisely. Your choice of a doctor or other medical-care provider can greatly influence the quality of care you receive and make the experience less emotionally demanding.

So how can you pick the best doctor or medical-care provider for your child? Here are some simple ways you can narrow the field and make the right choice:

Look at medical caregivers before emergencies
The time to choose a pediatrician or other medical caregiver for your child is before you have an emergency to deal with. For one thing, when it’s an emergency, you don’t have much choice – you have to take the doctor you can get, regardless of any shortcomings he or she has. The other reason you should choose a doctor before there’s an emergency is that you may be too distracted to think clearly when the pressure is on. You want to have the right people in place before it gets to that point.

Ask for referrals from friends
Start by asking your friends, family, and neighbors for referrals. You’ll find that many people have had both good and bad experiences with doctors, so be prepared to learn from both aspects. And when they recommend a doctor, ask them what exactly they like about them. One parent’s criteria may be very different from yours. For example, maybe you have more time than your friends, so scheduling isn’t an issue as much for you as it is for them. Perhaps instead you value the interaction and people skills of the doctor a great deal — it’s more about his personal manner. So be sure to ask people the right questions, so you find out about the things that are most important to you.

Research online
Once you have some names, put them into a search engine. There’s a good chance you’ll find reviews, articles or other revealing insight into the quality and involvement of their practice. Be prepared for good and bad.

Discuss the doctor’s treatment philosophy
Once you’re satisfied that the doctor meets your qualifications and expectations, it’s time to pay him or her a visit. Ask about the doctor’s general treatment philosophy and methods. They should be able to iterate what they do in a succinct, focused summary. And, perhaps most of all, trust your instincts at this point. If you’ve found a “great” doctor but you get an uncomfortable vibe when talking to him, then it’s not a good fit. You’re seeking a partner for your child’s health needs. Be choosy.

Meet the staff
Much of the overall experience you get in working with a medical caregiver comes from the staff. So take a little time in your visit to talk to them and see what they’re like. Is the office hectic and understaffed? Are the people patient, or are they terse and abrupt with people? Remember, you’re probably going to be seeking medical under stressful conditions – your child may very well be crying, in pain, short on sleep and very demanding. You should look for the whole environment to work toward healing and pain relief, not stress and confrontation.



The Childcare Answer Book, by Linda H. Connell. Copyright 2005, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart, by Jan Heart. Copyright 2001, New Society Publishers