Finding the Perfect PediatricianJuly 17, 2019“Parents should consider if they will be comfortable with a physician who is the opposite sex of their child.”Credentials are important, but what about personality and office environment?Selecting a pediatrician can be one of the most important decisions a parent can make. After all, this person will be your healthcare soulmate for years to come — your go-to expert when a sudden fever arises or you’re worried that your little one hasn’t started walking yet.The best time to start searching for a pediatrician is in the last few weeks before the expected due date, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.In years past, word-of-mouth referrals from friends, family members, and even schools were the most common way pediatricians gained new patients. Today, it's still a good idea to solicit friendly referrals, but the internet has become the easiest and fastest method parents can research potential doctors.Nora Oates, M.D., of Hales Pediatrics.However, Dr. Nora Oates of Hales Pediatrics advises parents look at online pediatrician reviews and ratings with a discerning eye. The best way to truly discover if a pediatrician is a good fit for your family is to meet the doctor in person.“Nothing can be more helpful than a visit to the office you’re considering,” Dr. Oates says.Hales Pediatrics offers just that. Called “expectant visits” for parents starting a family and “get to know you” visits for those who may be new to the area or thinking about changing physicians, these introductory meetings are the best way to see if a pediatrician’s office is a match.When selecting a pediatrician, you could be signing up for an 18-year commitment says Dr. James K. Treadway Jr. with Children’s Pediatrics Carousel. Dr. Treadway’s practice also schedules appointments for parents to get to know physicians prior to making such an important commitment.It’s difficult to get an understanding of a pediatrician’s personality and style over the internet warns Dr. Treadway, who works from his Metairie office. Some parents prefer an older, experienced doctor while other parents relate to a younger doctor with a sense of humor. The only way to get a good feel is to visit the practice in person.James K. Treadway Jr., M.D., of Children’s Pediatrics Carousel. Photo by Michael Palumbo.When visiting, parents are advised to check credentials, which are usually displayed somewhere on the practitioner's office wall. Training in pediatrics requires medical school and at least three years of residency in either pediatrics or family medicine.After that, many doctors take a test given by the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Family Medicine, and if they pass, become board certified. However, it is possible to practice as a pediatrician without this certification.Dr. Treadway also recommends that parents should consider if they will be comfortable with a physician who is the opposite sex of their child. It may be fine while the child is younger, but he or she may have a different opinion once puberty starts.A child-friendly environment at the office is important as well as the layout of the office itself, Dr. Oates says. Parents should look for a clear separation of sick and well-visit seating areas.There are several important issues parents should discuss with pediatricians before becoming a patient. One issue is learning about the office’s vaccine schedule.“That’s a hot topic these days,” Dr. Oates says.It is also reasonable for a parent to ask a potential physician about the office’s use of antibiotics and approaches to sleep training and feeding.Parents should also feel comfortable enough to discuss the child’s ailments, immunizations, thumb sucking, bed-wetting, developmental progress and changes throughout childhood, puberty, and more.Lauren Hernandez, M.D., of Collins Pediatrics.Dr. Lauren Hernandez of Collins Pediatrics suggests parents ensure the practice’s hours are compatible with their work schedules and offer an on-call service for weekends and after business hours.Dr. Hernandez and her practice always offer same-day sick appointments.“I think that’s big in choosing a pediatrician,” she says.Another important question for parents to ask is how many days per week the doctor sees patients. Parents should also ask how many other physicians work in the practice and if they will consider having their child see someone other than their regular physician.At Collins Pediatrics, there are five pediatricians and one nurse practitioner at the practice’s two locations in Lakeview and Metairie. The practice also schedules appointments for parents to meet its pediatricians before becoming a patient.Despite all the preparation and research parents may conduct, sometimes a pediatrician’s office just doesn’t work out. If that happens, it’s perfectly acceptable to find a new practice, Dr. Oates says.“It is absolutely OK for families to look at other practices if it doesn’t feel good for them or it’s not the right fit,” she says. Kate Stevens is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to our sister publication, Nola Boomers. Check out which pediatricians Nola Family readers recommend the most by visiting the 2019 Family Favorites Reader Survey.