Choosing A Pediatrician: What To Consider

October 11, 2023

Finding the right pediatrician for your child is an important decision. With so many factors to consider, such as their qualifications, demeanor, and accessibility, it can feel overwhelming. However, by taking the time to research and prioritize your needs, you can ensure that your child receives the best possible care. In this article, we will explore the key factors to consider when choosing a pediatrician, helping you make an informed decision that leaves you feeling confident and reassured in your choice.

Education and Credentials

Medical School

When choosing a pediatrician for your child, one of the first things you should consider is their medical school education. You want to ensure that your pediatrician has received a quality education from a reputable medical school. Look for a pediatrician who has graduated from an accredited medical school with a strong curriculum that includes specific coursework in pediatrics.

Residency Training

In addition to medical school, residency training is another important factor to consider when choosing a pediatrician. During their residency, pediatricians receive specialized training in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. This hands-on experience provides them with the necessary skills and expertise to effectively diagnose and treat a wide range of pediatric conditions.

Board Certification

Board certification is a mark of distinction that indicates a pediatrician has met certain standards of knowledge, skill, and experience in their field. It is not a requirement for practicing medicine, but it can provide reassurance to parents that their pediatrician has undergone additional testing and evaluation beyond medical school and residency training.

Specialized Training

Some pediatricians may have additional specialized training in certain areas of pediatric care. For example, some pediatricians may have expertise in pediatric cardiology, while others may have specialized training in pediatric neurology. If your child has a specific medical condition or requires specialized care, it may be beneficial to seek out a pediatrician who has experience in that area.

Location and Accessibility

Proximity to Home

When choosing a pediatrician, it’s important to consider their proximity to your home. Having a pediatrician who is conveniently located can make it easier for you to attend appointments and seek medical care when needed. Look for a pediatrician who has an office that is within a reasonable distance from your home.

Proximity to Work

Similarly, it can be helpful to choose a pediatrician who is located near your workplace. This can make it more convenient for you to schedule appointments and attend them during your lunch break or after work. Having a pediatrician close to your workplace can also be beneficial in case of emergencies or unexpected illnesses.

Transportation Options

Consider the transportation options available to you when selecting a pediatrician. If you rely on public transportation, choose a pediatrician whose office is easily accessible by bus or train. If you have a car, consider the parking situation at the pediatrician’s office. Having convenient transportation options can make it easier for you to get your child to their appointments and ensure that you can access care when needed.

Office Hours

The office hours of a pediatrician are another important consideration. Look for a pediatrician whose office hours align with your schedule and availability. It can be helpful to choose a pediatrician who offers extended or weekend hours, as this can provide flexibility when it comes to scheduling appointments. Additionally, consider whether the pediatrician offers same-day appointments for urgent concerns.

Office Policies and Procedures

Appointment Availability

When choosing a pediatrician, it’s important to know how easy it is to schedule appointments. Consider the availability of appointments for routine check-ups as well as for sick visits. Look for a pediatrician who offers a range of appointment times to accommodate your schedule and ensures that you can access care when needed.

Waiting Times

Nobody enjoys sitting in a waiting room for extended periods of time, especially with a young child. When selecting a pediatrician, inquire about their average waiting times and how they manage their schedule to minimize wait times. Additionally, ask if they offer separate waiting areas for sick and well children, which can help reduce the risk of infection.

Emergency Coverage

In case of an emergency, it’s essential to know what kind of coverage the pediatrician provides. Find out if they have after-hours emergency coverage or if they work with an affiliated hospital or medical center. Knowing that you can reach your pediatrician in urgent situations can provide peace of mind and ensure that your child receives prompt care when needed.

After-Hours Access

Consider the after-hours access available with the pediatrician. If your child becomes ill outside of regular office hours, it’s important to know how you can reach the pediatrician for guidance or to schedule an urgent appointment. Some pediatricians offer a nurse hotline or on-call system, while others may have arrangements with urgent care centers. Understanding the after-hours access options can help you make informed decisions in emergency situations.

Philosophy of Care

Preventive Care

A pediatrician’s philosophy of care should align with your own when it comes to preventive care. Inquire about the pediatrician’s approach to well-child visits, immunizations, and screenings. Look for a pediatrician who emphasizes preventive care and educates parents on maintaining their child’s overall health and well-being.

Treatment Approaches

Understanding a pediatrician’s treatment approaches is important when selecting a healthcare provider for your child. Inquire about their approach to common childhood conditions, such as respiratory infections or common illnesses. Do they have a conservative approach to prescribing medications, or do they take a more proactive approach? Choose a pediatrician whose treatment approaches align with your own preferences and values.

Parent Involvement

Consider how a pediatrician involves parents in their child’s healthcare. It’s essential to choose a pediatrician who values parental input and considers parents as partners in their child’s care. A pediatrician who listens to parental concerns, answers questions, and involves parents in the decision-making process can foster a collaborative and positive healthcare experience for everyone involved.

Holistic or Traditional

Pediatricians may have different approaches to healthcare, ranging from traditional medicine to a more holistic approach. Traditional medicine focuses on evidence-based treatments and medications, while a more holistic approach may encompass alternative therapies and a focus on overall wellness. Choose a pediatrician whose approach aligns with your own beliefs and preferences for your child’s healthcare.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Active Listening

One of the most important qualities to look for in a pediatrician is their ability to actively listen to your concerns and questions. A pediatrician who listens attentively shows that they value your input and are invested in providing the best care for your child. Look for a pediatrician who takes the time to understand your concerns and addresses them in a compassionate manner.

Ease of Communication

Effective communication is crucial when it comes to your child’s healthcare. Consider the ease of communication with a potential pediatrician. Is it easy to schedule appointments? Can you reach the pediatrician’s office easily by phone or email? Choose a pediatrician who has efficient communication systems in place to ensure that you can easily connect with them when needed.

Ability to Explain Medical Terms

Medical information can be overwhelming, especially when it is filled with complex terminology. A good pediatrician will have the ability to explain medical terms and conditions in a way that is easy for parents to understand. Look for a pediatrician who takes the time to explain medical information in plain language, ensuring that you have a thorough understanding of your child’s health.


Empathy is a crucial trait in any healthcare provider, especially when it comes to caring for children. Look for a pediatrician who demonstrates genuine empathy and compassion for their patients and their families. A pediatrician who understands the emotions and concerns that can arise when a child is unwell can provide not only medical care but also much-needed emotional support.

Insurance Coverage and Billing

Accepted Insurance Plans

When selecting a pediatrician, it’s important to verify that they accept your insurance plan. Contact your insurance provider to obtain a list of in-network pediatricians in your area. Choosing an in-network pediatrician can help ensure that you receive the maximum insurance coverage for your child’s healthcare expenses.

Billing Practices

Inquire about the pediatrician’s billing practices to ensure that they are transparent and align with your expectations. Ask about their process for submitting claims, any necessary paperwork, and whether they offer electronic billing options. Understanding the billing practices upfront can help prevent any surprises or confusion regarding payment later on.

Co-Payments and Deductibles

Co-payments and deductibles are important considerations when it comes to your child’s healthcare expenses. Inquire about the pediatrician’s co-payment requirements and whether they offer flexible payment options for families with financial constraints. Understanding the out-of-pocket costs associated with each visit can help you plan and budget accordingly.

Payment Options

Discuss the payment options available with the pediatrician. Some pediatricians may offer payment plans or extended payment options for families who require financial assistance. It’s important to select a pediatrician who is willing to work with you to ensure that your child receives the necessary care, regardless of your financial situation.

Referrals and Specialists

Referral Network

In certain situations, your child may require specialized care from a specialist. Inquire about the referral network of the pediatrician to ensure that they have established relationships with trusted specialists in various fields. Having a pediatrician who can seamlessly coordinate referrals and communicate with specialists can streamline your child’s healthcare journey.

Collaboration with Specialists

Collaboration between your child’s pediatrician and any specialists involved in their care is crucial for ensuring comprehensive and coordinated healthcare. Ask about the pediatrician’s approach to collaborating with specialists and their willingness to share information and work as a team. A pediatrician who values collaboration can help ensure that your child receives the best possible care.

Access to Resources

Children with certain medical conditions may require access to additional resources, such as therapy services or support groups. Inquire about the pediatrician’s knowledge of and access to these resources to ensure that your child’s needs are met. A pediatrician who is well-connected within the community can provide valuable recommendations and link you to the necessary resources.

Coordination of Care

Choose a pediatrician who can effectively coordinate your child’s care within a multidisciplinary team. Effective coordination involves seamless communication between healthcare providers, sharing of medical records, and comprehensive care planning. Look for a pediatrician who has a patient-centered approach and is committed to ensuring that all aspects of your child’s care are well-coordinated.

Patient Reviews and Recommendations

Online Reviews

Researching online reviews can provide insights into the experiences other parents have had with a specific pediatrician. Read reviews on reputable healthcare websites to get a sense of what previous patients have liked or disliked about a particular pediatrician. Keep in mind that online reviews should be considered in conjunction with other factors and personal preferences.

Word-of-Mouth Recommendations

One of the most valuable sources of information is the recommendations from friends, family, and other parents in your community. Reach out to others who have children and inquire about their experiences with different pediatricians. Word-of-mouth recommendations can provide valuable firsthand insights and help guide your decision-making process.

Parent Support Groups

Parent support groups can be a valuable resource when it comes to finding a pediatrician. Engage with local parent support groups and ask for their recommendations and experiences with pediatricians in your area. These groups often have members with firsthand knowledge and can provide valuable feedback and recommendations based on their experiences.

Doctor Rating Websites

Doctor rating websites can provide additional information and insights when choosing a pediatrician. These websites often provide ratings and reviews from patients, allowing you to get a broader perspective on a pediatrician’s reputation and qualities. However, it’s important to approach these websites with caution, as reviews can be subjective and may vary based on individual experiences.

Cultural Sensitivity and Diversity

Understanding Different Cultures

A pediatrician who understands and respects different cultures can provide more effective and personalized care to culturally diverse families. Inquire about a pediatrician’s experiences in working with diverse populations and their cultural competence training. A pediatrician who understands different cultural practices and beliefs can create a welcoming and inclusive environment for your family.

Bilingual or Multilingual Staff

Language barriers can create challenges when seeking healthcare for your child. If English is not your first language or if you prefer to communicate in another language, consider choosing a pediatrician who has bilingual or multilingual staff. Being able to communicate comfortably in your preferred language can enhance your understanding of medical information and promote effective communication with the pediatrician.

Respect for Religious Beliefs

Religious beliefs can deeply influence a family’s healthcare decisions. When choosing a pediatrician, inquire about their respect for religious beliefs and their willingness to accommodate any specific religious requirements. A pediatrician who respects your family’s religious beliefs can create a supportive and understanding environment that aligns with your values.

Sensitivity to LGBTQ+ Families

If you identify as LGBTQ+ or if you have LGBTQ+ family members, it’s important to choose a pediatrician who is sensitive and knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ healthcare needs. Inquire about a pediatrician’s experience and training in LGBTQ+ healthcare and their approach to inclusive care. A pediatrician who is LGBTQ+ friendly can provide an accepting and affirming environment for your family.

Compatibility and Trust

Initial Consultation

Many pediatricians offer initial consultations for prospective patients and their families. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet the pediatrician in person and assess whether they are a good fit for your family. Use the initial consultation to ask questions, discuss your expectations, and gauge your comfort level with the pediatrician’s communication style and demeanor.

Discussions on Parenting Style

A pediatrician who values open discussions about parenting style can create a supportive and collaborative healthcare environment. Look for a pediatrician who is willing to engage in conversations about your parenting style, values, and preferences. A pediatrician who respects your choices as a parent and provides guidance tailored to your parenting style can enhance your overall healthcare experience.

Gut Feeling

Trust your instincts when choosing a pediatrician for your child. Sometimes, a “gut feeling” can provide valuable insights into whether a particular pediatrician is the right fit for your family. Pay attention to your initial impressions during the initial consultation and any other interactions you have with the pediatrician. Trusting your instincts can help ensure that you and your child feel comfortable and confident in the pediatrician’s care.

Ability to Establish a Long-Term Relationship

When selecting a pediatrician, consider their ability to establish a long-term relationship with your child. Continuity of care is important for maintaining a trusting and familiar healthcare environment for your child. Choose a pediatrician who is committed to providing ongoing care throughout your child’s developmental stages and is invested in their long-term health and well-being.

Choosing a pediatrician is an important decision that can greatly impact your child’s healthcare experience. By considering factors such as education and credentials, location and accessibility, office policies and procedures, philosophy of care, communication and interpersonal skills, insurance coverage and billing, referrals and specialists, patient reviews and recommendations, cultural sensitivity and diversity, and compatibility and trust, you can make an informed decision that best suits your family’s needs. Remember, finding the right pediatrician is not only about medical expertise, but also about establishing a trusting and collaborative relationship that promotes your child’s overall well-being.

Sandra McNeil, PhD.
Sandra McNeil, PhD.

Sandra has over 13 years of experience as a child psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has a Bachelor's in child psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and then she did her master's in Psychology in Education (focused on Children & Families) at Columbia University, NY. She has been writing for health and child-related publications for over 5 years now.

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