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How to Choose a Pediatrician

Your comfort level with a doctor is ultimately going to be one of the most important factors in getting the best care for your child.

One of the first healthcare decisions you'll make for your child is choosing a pediatrician.

This doctor will be with your child and your family through vaccinations, illnesses, physicals, and more.


Your comfort level with a doctor is ultimately going to be one of the most important factors in getting the best care for your child.


"The medicine of what we do as pediatricians is all very similar," says Dr. Pamela Phillips, pediatrician and mother of 3.

"We all recommend the same vaccine schedule. We all follow evidence-based guidelines. What you're going to be looking for is a strong connection."

Dr. Phillips offered these thoughts on finding the right fit for your family:

The most important credential: good listening skills

Dr. Phillips says much of what she and other pediatricians do with their patients is just answering questions.

They talk to new parents about how to get their babies to sleep through the night, tackle tantrums with toddlers, and cope with changing attitudes during teenage years.



"So much of what we do is just advice," she says.

"We talk about behavior, sleep, feeding—many things that aren't necessarily related to their physical exam but are important for their health and wellbeing. You want to feel your doctor is going to listen to you."

Your comfort level with a doctor is ultimately going to be one of the most important factors in getting the best care for your child.

Location matters

You're likely to go to the doctor more often than you think.

Make sure you pick somewhere that is convenient. When your child is sick and needs to see their pediatrician, you'll be glad they're close to home.



You can pick your child's doctor before they are born

Most pediatricians offer a free meet-and-greet visit for expecting couples. This gives you a chance to meet several doctors and think through your choice.

Having a doctor picked out before your baby is born also helps ensure a seamless transition from in-hospital care to their first visit.

Carlie Baiocchi, a labor and delivery nurse and childbirth and parenting educator, says your nurses will contact your pediatrician and let them know they have a new patient.

Don't hesitate to switch doctors

Maybe your child gets sick and sees a different doctor in the same office and you just click better with them.

Or maybe your needs have changed and you think a new doctor would be a better fit for your family.

"Don't be afraid to switch if it's not the right fit," Dr. Phillips says.

"We want it to be the best experience for you and your family. We're not insulted if you switch to one of our colleagues."

Dr. Phillips assures they understand that everyone is a little different.



Questions to ask before you pick your pediatrician

 

When you have that initial meeting with a pediatrician before settling on a doctor, here are some questions Dr. Phillips suggests asking:

  • What time do you open and what are your hours? Pretty basic, but it's important to know if the office has hours that will fit your family's needs.
  • What are your rules about same-day visits? Phillips' office reserves a few hours in the morning to see kids who got sick overnight. Every doctor's office operates differently, and it helps to know.
  • What's your after-hours policy? If an emergency happens or you have a pressing problem, you'll want to be able to reach your doctor or another physician covering for them.
  • Is there a separate waiting room for sick children? Many places separate sick children from kids and babies waiting for well-child visits. That helps prevent colds and other illnesses from spreading.
  • Will you come see the baby in the hospital? If you're checking out pediatricians before the baby is born, find out if the doctor makes a hospital visit to see the newborn.