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Health Information For Parents
From the day you learn you’re pregnant, you make decisions that last your child’s lifetime — like the name you choose for your baby. To give your newborn the healthiest possible start, you’ll want to find a pediatrician to care for your child from their first wellness visit through the teen years. Here are tips on how to find that doctor.
It’s a good idea to start looking for a doctor about 3 months before your baby is due. Ask for recommendations from relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and doctors you know. Then, check your insurance company’s website to see if the doctors are in your plan.
If you’re new to an area, start by searching for pediatricians on your insurance company’s website or try the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Find a Pediatrician tool.
Look at online reviews and ratings, but proceed with caution. Like all online sites, the reviewers’ opinions and expectations may differ from yours. Make sure the review site only allows feedback from actual patients.
Of course, doctors aren’t the only people in a pediatrics office who care for children. Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) also see young patients. They are trained to give shots, check kids for health problems, prescribe medicines — and do many of the things doctors can do.
Most pediatricians and the nurses and physician assistants in their practices see children and teens up to age 21. Pediatric training focuses on treating children from birth until adulthood. Family physicians take care of patients of all ages, from kids to seniors.
Both have the same years of training, but pediatricians specialize in children. This give them in-depth understanding of children’s health needs, like behavioral issues and how to care for a child’s growing, developing body.
Pediatricians can graduate from medical school with either an MD (doctor of medicine) or a DO (doctor of osteopathy) degree. Both degrees train doctors to diagnose and treat diseases — and to try to prevent them when possible.
Programs for DOs usually focus on a holistic (“whole body”) approach to medicine. MDs study medicine in the traditional way. All MDs and DOs must complete a residency — supervised hands-on training — before they are licensed to practice medicine.
Choosing a DO or MD is up to you. Both are equally qualified. But you do want to make sure that your child’s pediatrician is board certified.
At the end of their residency, doctors can take exams to be “board certified” in their field — in general pediatrics, for example, or in a pediatric specialty like orthopedics. These exams are set by the governing body in a field of medicine, like the AAP, and they’re not easy to pass.
Most pediatricians’ offices set aside times for expectant parents to visit. Call the office to set up an appointment. During your “meet and greet,” you can tour the office and talk with a doctor or nurse.
Some doctors offer group classes for expectant parents to learn about the practice and discuss newborn care. Others offer one-on-one interviews. Many insurance companies encourage these prenatal appointments or classes and will cover their cost. But check first with the doctor’s office and your health plan.
Here are some things to consider as you decide if the practice is right for your family. Make a list of your questions to help you organize your thoughts.
Besides allowing you to ask questions like these, your visit is a great time to see how the office runs. Is the waiting area clean and child-friendly? Is the staff polite and helpful to patients in the waiting room and to people on the phone?
While you’re waiting, talk to the other parents. Ask them what they like best about the practice and why they feel good about the care the doctor provides.
After you’ve had a chance to talk with the doctor and other members of the care team, do you feel you will work well together? Is the doctor willing to explain things carefully? Does the doctor seem to be a good listener? Will you be comfortable asking questions? Do you think the doctor would mind if you wanted to get a second opinion?
Do you and your doctor share beliefs about issues that are important to you? For example, how does the doctor feel about circumcision? Breastfeeding? Alternative or integrative medicines or techniques? Use of antibiotics and other medicines? Remember that the doctor may be seeing your child for years to come.
Keep your notes about the doctors you didn’t select. If your insurance changes, you may find yourself looking for a new doctor. Or it may take a while to find a doctor you’re happy with.
Choosing a health care provider before your baby is born will help you feel confident about your baby’s care. Knowing you have chosen the right doctor will help you feel calmer and more in control.
What are nurse practitioners, and how do they differ from medical doctors?
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
Doctors use growth charts to figure out whether kids’ height and weight measurements are “normal” and whether they’re developing on track. Here are some facts about growth charts.
Help your teen or young adult make the transition from pediatric health care to adult health care. Get tips on finding a new doctor and getting health insurance.
Parents are likely to be stressed when a child is hospitalized, and questions about the people providing medical care and what roles they play can add to the confusion. Our guide can help.
Many health institutions digitally store their patients’ health information. Learn about electronic health records (EHRs) and how they can improve health care.
Building a relationship with your child’s doctor requires communication and reasonable expectations.
When kids know they’re “going to the doctor,” many become worried about the visit. Here’s how to help them.
Although the emotional price of raising a seriously ill child can be devastating, it’s only part of the picture. Even during this difficult time, you have to consider the financial implications.
Involving teens in their health care can help prepare them for managing it on their own as adults.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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