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What are some important questions to ask when interviewing a potential pediatrician for our newborn?
Q: We are expecting our first baby in January and we’ll be meeting with our pediatrician for the first time very soon. Would you please give me some commonly asked questions so we can get the most out of our consultation with her? I have some questions of my own, but would like to really get to know her and how she will be with our baby.
Kari Bismarck
A: Dear Kari,

It’s a great idea to meet your pediatrician before the baby is born. It is good for you to see if you feel comfortable interacting with this doctor and to see if your questions are answered clearly and thoroughly. It is also wise to evaluate the office as well as the doctor. Does the office seem clean and is the staff warm and friendly? Is this a place that you will feel comfortable bringing your child? Is the office in a convenient location for your family and will they accept your medical insurance? And finally, a visit to a pediatrician’s office is an opportunity for a couple to try on the new role of parents, and to learn about your own patterns of communication.

You may wish to ask about the educational background of your pediatrician. Is he/she board certified in pediatrics, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics? You may wish to know whether the pediatrician is affiliated with a local hospital. If your child needs to be hospitalized, will your pediatrician be able to care for your child in the hospital or will care be transferred to another doctor?

Some commonly asked questions are:

1) Do you have a group practice or a solo practice? If you are unavailable when my child is ill, who covers your patients? Will other physicians have access to my child’s medical records? (This allows the covering physician to know your child’s medical history and allergies.)

2) Do you have children of your own? (Personal experience goes a long way in this field.)

3) Do you come to the hospital to do a newborn assessment after the delivery?

4) Do you think there is a benefit to circumcision for male infants? (There may be no right or wrong answer to this question, but it provides an opportunity to hear the doctor discuss a controversial issue.)

5) If we have questions during regular office hours, does your office have an advice nurse or do you like to speak with parents directly?

6) How often will we be bringing our baby in for appointments? What is the schedule of immunizations necessary for our child?

7) When your office is closed, do you provide special office appointments or will we need to take our child to the emergency room?

8) How easy is it to arrange same-day appointments for sick children? Are there separate waiting areas for healthy and sick children?

Your pediatrician will be a wonderful resource for you as your child grows. Ideally, you should find someone who is responsive to your values and communication style, provides a setting that is welcoming, and encourages your questions.