Choosing the Right Pediatrician for your Child

During open enrollment, parents may evaluate their family’s healthcare plan, which can mean searching for new doctors and specialists for their children. Choosing your child’s primary care doctor is important. We spoke to Dr. Dan Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, who offered tips to help parents make the right decision for their child.

Importance of a Pediatrician

It’s important for children to see a pediatrician, rather than a family practitioner who may treat older members of the family. A pediatrician is specially trained to care for infants, children and teens.   A pediatrician has graduated from medical school and completed a three-year residency program in pediatrics.  A board-certified pediatrician has passed rigorous exams administered by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Kids are not “little adults.” Different ages can present different illnesses and behavioral problems, which pediatricians are trained to recognize, diagnose and treat. Teens need pediatric care, too. Their bodies are still young and growing, their brains are still developing, and they are not yet ready for adult care, says Mackey.

A pediatrician’s office is generally designed with kids in mind, with waiting areas and exam rooms geared toward making children feel comfortable and engaged. Pediatricians’ office schedules are usually created to accommodate same-day and sick appointments.

In addition to choosing a pediatrician who is in-network with the family’s insurance plan, parents want to make sure the pediatrician is aligned with good pediatric subspecialists and their local children’s hospital.  Other factors to consider include:

  • Bedside manner
  • Interaction with office staff
  • Office hours and ease of scheduling an appointment
  • Medical records: paper or electronic
  • Method of communication with doctor: many offices offer phone, email and an online patient portal

Part of the Family

Having an open dialogue with your child’s pediatrician is important.  Parents shouldn’t shy away from asking questions.

“Being available for questions is important to families,” says Mackey. “A lot of teaching and education goes on over the years as the child grows up. It starts with educating the parent about nursing and nutrition, and continues with discussions about child safety, including issues like discipline and behavior.”

In addition to being a trusted resource on parenting, your child’s pediatrician is someone with whom you will spend a lot of time as your children grow up.

“Hopefully the relationship the family has with the pediatrician becomes a very long and pleasant one that lasts many years,” says Mackey. “Eventually, the pediatrician almost becomes part of the family, and a trusted member to turn to for help and advice. The best part of the job is getting to watch the child grow up.”

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12 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Pediatrician for your Child”

  1. These are great factors to consider when looking for a good pediatrician. I just move to a new area, so I’ve been looking for a doctor that my kids will like. Paying attention to bedside manner and the way they interact with the rest of the staff are both good indicators of the doctor’s personality. I look forward to finding a new pediatrician that will be the right fit for my family.

  2. I like that you mentioned kids are not “little adults.” I think it is important to have a pediatrician with good interactions. My son is really shy yet he always feels comfortable with out pediatrician.

  3. Great point about considering how well office hours work with your regular schedule. It makes sense that you shouldn’t choose an office that is only open during times you’re always busy or unavailable. My husband and I need to find a pediatrician for our kids, so I will be sure to consider that when I shop around.

    1. Sam- you can use the “Find a Provider” feature on choc.org to help you find a CHOC pediatrician or other specialist near you.

  4. I thought it was interesting that teens need pediatric care too. It does make sense, because they’re going through crazy changes. I feel like kids need such different care, that pediatricians are very necessary. They probably go through a lot of training on how to deal and treat kids.

  5. I agree with the point you make about how it’s worth taking the time to find a good doctor. These tips and questions on what to pay attention to are very helpful and insightful on what to look for. I hope that I can find a good doctor to help me out with some questions that I have.

  6. I just adopted a three-year-old and I am planning on taking him to the doctor’s for the first time at some point within the next week. However, I have been trying to decide between taking him to my family practitioner or to a pediatrician and so I really appreciate you explaining the importance of the latter. I definitely never knew that a pediatrician could be better trained than a family doctor in dealing with the health issues of children.

  7. A friend of mine just had their first child, and they were curious about how you would find a care center for them. I really like that you say to look at their bedside manner. Since you want your child to be comfortable, it would be nice to see that they know how to talk to your kid.

  8. I liked how you pointed out the need to consider the bedside manner the staff has when choosing a pediatrician. I think this could make visiting a pediatric office before taking your child there for an appointment a good idea. I’d definitely be willing to do this since it would make me feel more confident about my decision of who to take my child to.

  9. Finding a quality family pediatrician can be tricky. I like what you say about finding a kid-friendly environment. It’s scary enough for your kid to go to the doctor, so finding one that treats your little ones right is so important.

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