So, your due date is rapidly approaching and you’re about to have a baby! During your pregnancy you’ve been eating the healthiest food of your life, swallowing those huge prenatal vitamins, designing and setting up an adorable nursery, and making it to every single OB appointment. Be SURE, however, to make time for one more VERY important decision – selecting a pediatrician and establishing a medical home in the Denver metro area for your new baby!
What Is A Pediatrician?
First of all, you may wonder what exactly is a pediatrician? A pediatrician is a physician specializing in the care of infants, adolescents and children up to the age of 21, providing physical, mental and emotional support in the form of preventive care for healthy kids and medical care for sick children. A pediatrician practicing integrative medicine offers services such as evaluations of your child’s development, education on topics such as safety, lifestyle and breastfeeding, immunizations, diagnosing and treating common illnesses as well as developmental disorders and behavioral issues, and prescribing medications, when appropriate.
How To Find a Pediatrician: Where and When to Begin? What to Ask?
It’s great to start the search for a Denver pediatrician during your second trimester and at least by the BEGINNING of your THIRD trimester. If you happen to get sidelined by other tasks, or (heaven forbid) bedrest or a premature delivery, you will wish you had made the time to select the professional who will help guide you through those delicate first days and weeks with your new baby. (One less thing to worry about when you head to the hospital in labor!)
It is a good idea to begin your search by asking your obstetric office, family members, friends and neighbors who have kids and, hey, even parents with kids/babies you run into in your neighborhood, for names of providers they have experience with and recommend. If you’re new to the Denver area, you can also contact local medical schools, hospitals and even county medical societies for a list of local pediatricians. And it is always a good idea to contact your insurance company for a list of pediatricians who accept your medical insurance.
Once you have compiled a list, do a little homework by contacting the office staff at each practice, or checking out the websites for those group practices, which can provide essential basic information to help you, such as:
- whether new patients with your insurance are being accepted,
- the office hours (including walk-in hours and evening and weekend hours),
- whether same-day appointments are offered,
- whether there are separate waiting areas for sick and healthy children,
- the manner of handling billing and insurance claims, and
- whether payment plans, if needed, are offered.
When you find a pediatric practice that seems like a “good fit” for your family, the next step should be to verify that the doctors are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which signifies that they are board certified and up to date on the latest developments in child health. At this point, you are ready to give them a call to see if they offer an opportunity for you to come by in person for a “meet & greet” visit. Make the most of that opportunity and come prepared with a handy list of questions to ask!
What To Ask When First Meeting With a Pediatrician
To help get you started on a list of questions to ask a pediatrician, we thought we’d share our thoughts developed over the many years of our experience in a Denver integrative pediatric practice. Feel free to add any additional questions that come to mind!
- What is your educational background and training in pediatrics? If you have not yet verified that the pediatrician is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is a good time to ask!
- Do you have children of your own?
- What is the practice’s philosophy? This question can cover topics such as vaccines, breastfeeding, circumcisions, sleep, diet, antibiotics–whatever is important to you!
- Can I access my records/make appointments/ask questions electronically?
- If I call or otherwise contact you with a question or concern (including medication refill requests), how long will it take you to respond? Are there extra charges for these contacts?
- What happens when the office is closed if we have a problem or emergency? Will you handle emergency calls at night? Will you see patients in the office after regular hours?
- What hospitals are you affiliated with? Do you have privileges with my hospital?
- Do we see you in the hospital when our baby is born? If not, when do we come for our first appointment?
- How often will you see our baby for well-baby visits?
- Who covers your practice if you are unavailable?
- How will you help us learn about nutrition, behavior, development, sleep and other important issues?
- What about immunizations? Will you work with us to help us learn about them?
- Where are patients sent for lab work/imaging? Do those centers accept our insurance?
Once you have gathered all the information, you are ready to make an evidence-based decision. Even here, however, the mind/body connection applies. The bottom line will be what pediatrician do you feel most comfortable with as you start a family!
Think about it — your relationship with your new pediatric practice is one you and your child could potentially be enjoying for two decades! Finding a pediatrician that seems caring, respectful, encourages you, educates you on your journey and reassures you when you are worried, is what we wish for you. We are “in the business of pediatrics” because we absolutely LOVE helping to nurture children and families to find the very best health they can. We are thrilled to help when a child needs our care to get well. We rejoice with you when our tips help you get that sleep at night. If we notice a problem, we step right in to “walk the walk” with your family to get your child exactly what he or she needs to be healthy. And what truly brings us joy is when your child grows up and selects us to care for his or her children (ah, a “legacy!”). Pediatricians love teaching, healing and being a part of your extended family when you need us.
So, take the time to think about this very important “last box to check” as you plan for the arrival of your baby – it’s one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent – and it can make this journey of parenting in the Denver area SO much better!