April 18, 2024

Our expert gives advice for how and when to start your search, plus tips about smart questions to ask.

Finding the right pediatrician to care for your child is incredibly important. Many parents begin the search for a pediatrician in the second trimester of pregnancy — but the truth is, it’s never too late to find the right health-care provider for your child. Older children and teens still need a pediatrician and a primary care medical home for annual well visits and those unexpected sick visits.

“You are choosing someone to be a part of your child’s life for a long time,” said Dr. Toni-Ann Wright, a pediatrician with Pediatric Primary Care at Vanderbilt. “It is a good idea to start early, do a little research and ask questions. It may feel like you’re going ‘above and beyond’ at first, but your research will pay off in the long run, and the right pediatrician will appreciate the work you’re putting in to find a good fit.

“With the rapid growth of Nashville, I have seen lots of families moving to the area,” Wright continued. “It is a good idea to find a pediatrician before your child is sick or needs an urgent appointment.”

Research provider backgrounds: training and experience

One of the first steps in your search to find the right pediatrician will be calling your health insurance company or visiting their website/app for a list of doctors covered under your plan. Then reach out to family, friends and neighbors to find out if they have used anyone on the list. They will often be able to share their personal experiences with the office and may help you pick one provider over another.

Often, health care providers post publicly available professional biographies detailing their training and years of experience. You can find these on many websites for insurance companies, clinics or hospitals, such as Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“If your child has specific health needs, look for a pediatrician with training to match,” Wright said.

Interview potential pediatricians to find the right fit

After reviewing your options, request an interview with a few different doctors. This might be conducted in-person or through a phone or video chat. This is a great first step in choosing a pediatrician.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discussing the following topics during your first meeting with a pediatrician:

  • What are the doctor’s hospital affiliations? Will they be seeing your child in the newborn nursery? If it becomes necessary, where would your child be admitted?
  • What is the doctor’s philosophy on prescribing antibiotics? Do they have any web resources that they like to share with families?
  • What is the doctor’s policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in the office who can answer routine questions? Do they have an easy-to-use electronic messaging system for questions? If so, how quickly can you expect a response, and is there a charge for this service?
  • Is the doctor in a group practice? Does another physician cover for the doctor? During which visits, if any, will your child be seen by a nurse practitioner? Who handles phone calls when the office is closed or during vacations?
  • Is the doctor able to answer questions about breastfeeding? If you need a lactation consultant to help you with breastfeeding, can the pediatrician set up that visit for you?
  • How are visits for acute illnesses handled? Can you make an appointment on short notice if your child has a sore throat or an infection, for example, so that you can see a doctor you’re familiar with rather than an urgent care provider?
  • If your child should ever develop a complex illness that needs the care of specialists, will your pediatrician coordinate care among all the doctors providing treatment?
  • Pediatricians recommend vaccinating on the routine scheduled recommended by the CDC. Will RSV and COVID vaccines be available in the office? What are the providers favorite resources for parents looking to learn more about vaccines?

Take note of other details as you make your decision

After you have visited a few clinics and spoken with the pediatricians you are considering for your child’s care, it’s time to make a decision. As you sit down and think through the conversations you had, here are a few other factors to consider about what you may have noticed while visiting each clinic or hospital:

  • Is the pediatrician’s office conveniently located?
  • Are the office’s hours convenient? (A working parent may need evening or weekend hours.)
  • Do you sense a genuine interest by the doctor in the problems of your child, including any particular health disorders he or she may have?
  • Are the doctor and office staff friendly and polite? Do they demonstrate compassion and patience? Or do you feel rushed in the office, as though the doctor is eager to move on to the next patient?
  • Does the doctor listen and speak clearly, using layman’s language (not medical jargon) to explain illnesses and treatments. Does the doctor make an effort to ensure your questions are answered?
  • Does the waiting area have separate spaces for sick and well children?

“Taken together, these details will give you a better idea of what you can expect from this physician and can help you find the right physician for your child and fit for your family,” Wright said. “Don’t be afraid to repeat the process later in life with an older child if you move to a new city or find that your child’s needs have changed.”

Expert care for you and your baby

Each pregnancy and delivery is unique and yours should be too. Learn more about how Vanderbilt Health’s obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine teams bring together nationally ranked expertise and personalized care from your first prenatal visit to delivery and beyond.

To learn more, call 615-343-5700 or schedule an appointment online.

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