Finding a good pediatrician is difficult but necessary. If you’re shopping for a pediatrician for the first time, or if you’ve had a bad experience and simply want to find a new one, read on for some tips that’ll help you make a more informed decision.

Get referrals

If you’ve just moved to a new town or are about to have a baby, talk to other parents to get their take on pediatricians they recommend — who has the nicest staff, the shortest wait times, the best hours, the best bedside manners. Other parents are your best bet to finding a good doctor for your child.

Check out the office staff

You want to see what it’s like to deal with the receptionist, nurses and billing department. When you start going to the pediatrician regularly, chances are you’ll see the nurses more often than the doctor. You’ll spend hours on the phone with office staff making appointments, getting test results and school forms, and making more appointments. If they are a pleasure to deal with, you’ll have fewer headaches. If not, you’re in trouble. (Hint: You can also soften up office staff by learning their names and exchanging pleasantries every time you go. You’d be amazed how a little kindness can go a long way when you’re trying to get your child seen by a doctor just before 5 p.m. on a Friday.)

Do your research

Set up a consultation with the doctor and ask about her education, experience, stance on vaccinations, use of antibiotics and any other questions you may have. You can tell a lot about how a doctor will act with your (future) children by talking face to face. When there for a consultation, also check out the wait times, because waiting 20 minutes versus an hour can make a big difference when bringing your child in for the third time in a week.

Try it out

Once you’ve settled on a pediatrician, go a couple times with your child and see how you feel. If you’re not confident in your doctor’s abilities as a diagnostician, it could affect your child’s welfare and will color every experience you have there. When your doctor tells you that your child just has a virus, are you still worried that it’s really something worse? What about the spots on his arm that she says will go away on their own, but you’re not so sure? If you are always second-guessing your pediatrician’s assessment, either you need to work on your trust issues or find a new doctor. Don’t be afraid to make a switch if you are concerned.

Is the doctor a good listener?

When it comes to your concerns, does she hear you out? Or does she dismiss them before you can even get a full sentence out? A good doctor is not threatened by your concerns and listens when you voice them. You may be overreacting to your son’s diaper rash, but a doctor confident in her own abilities will at least listen.

Finding a good pediatrician is like wearing shoes: You don’t notice them too much unless they don’t fit well. And if you’ve got a keeper? You’ll never want to change.

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