May 24, 2017

Pediatrician Questions

We mention in our book that the most important questions you ask a prospective pediatrician will depend on your values, among other considerations. Below is a sample list of recommended questions based on topic. Not everyone will feel it’s necessary to ask all these questions, but it’s a great start to pick and choose what’s most important for you to find out.

Practical Questions

  • “Does your practice offer separate waiting rooms and/or exam rooms for well children and sick children?”
  • “Do you have a 24-hour nurse line available?”
  • “Where do you have hospital privileges?”
  • “Can you be contacted electronically? What online presence or services does your office have?”
  • “What insurance do you take?”
  • “What are the offices hours for well visits and for sick visits?”
  • “Who covers for you when you’re out of the office, not on call, or on vacation?”
  • “Can I get a same-day sick appointment?”
  • “Who returns my phone calls when I call in with a question?”
  • “What parenting resources can you offer?”
  • “Do you use electronic medical records?” (Medical records can reduce errors, and on-call doctors may be able to access them away from the office.)

Holistic Questions

  • “If you’re a parent, did becoming a parent affect any of your views as a pediatrician or the way that you practiced as a pediatrician? If so, can you provide any examples?”
  • “How do you advise parents on kids’ sleeping issues if they choose practices that differ from the recommendations?” [Most doctors will strongly advise against bedsharing, but asking this questions can offer a sense of how doctors respond to parents who do not follow their recommendations.]
  • “How do you interact with a parent afterward if they have chosen not to follow instructions or advice you gave them that you feel is important but not life-threatening?”
  • “Are there any conditions you screen for that perhaps not all pediatricians screen for at well check-ups, such as bullying, substance use, developmental problems or delays, mental health concerns or red flags, etc.?”
  • “Our family has a history of [mental health/developmental/autoimmune/etc. conditions that personally apply to your situation]. Can you tell me about your familiarity with this area, what resources your office provides, and when you might make a referral to a specialist?”

Regarding Antibiotics

  • “If a child has an ear infection, at what point do you recommend antibiotics and/or how long do you recommend watching and waiting, if at all?”
  • “If a parent wants an antibiotic prescribed, but you’re pretty certain the illness is viral, what do you do?”
  • “How do you monitor and/or manage possible side effects from antibiotics in children?”
  • “Does your office have an antibiotic stewardship plan in place?” [Some hospitals and/or clinics have a specific plan aimed at reducing unnecessary antibiotic use.]

Regarding Vaccines

  • “What is your vaccine policy?”
  • “How do you respond to parents who are hesitant to vaccinate?” [Especially if the doctor is unaware of your perspectives on vaccination, this question gives you an opportunity to see how the doctor responds to a sensitive issue where they might encounter parent resistance.]
  • “Are non-vaccinating parents welcome in your practice? If so, are they required to follow any different practices than other parents?”
  • “Is your office staff up to date on their boosters, including pertussis? Does your practice require all office employees to get the flu shot each year? Has your staff been tested for immunity to measles?”

Regarding Breastfeeding (if you are planning to do so)

  • “What recommendations do you make to mothers regarding breastfeeding?”
  • “What kind of breastfeeding support can your office provide?” [Some offices have a lactation consultant; others may offer referrals to lactation consultants.]
  • “How do you feel about breastfeeding beyond one year? Beyond two?”
  • “In what circumstances might you recommend formula for a child?”
  • “If a child is not gaining weight as quickly as you believe they should, what actions do you take?”

Regarding Circumcision (particularly if you are deciding not to circumcise)

  • “What percentage of your patients are uncircumcised?”
  • “How familiar are you with care specifically of uncircumcised infants, including what action not to take and additional diagnoses to consider in certain situations?”
  • “How comfortable are you with caring for an uncircumcised infant?”

Regarding Current Research

  • “How (or how much) are you able to keep up with new research and recommendations in your field?”
  • “Do you attend any conferences throughout the year? Which ones?”
  • “What kind of continuing education do you take advantage of each year?”

 If you think we should add any questions to this list, let us know!