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For Jenn Saxton Hasamear, the decision to hire A to Z Pediatrics in Caseyville, Ill., turned out to be one of the most important decisions for her son’s life.
“Shortly after birth, my son Nicholas became ill,” Hasamear says. “The pediatrician, who was filling in for the regular pediatrician (who was not on-call), was just right on the ball and moved quickly to get Nicholas airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Hospital to receive more specialized care,” says Hasamear. “Then, while he was there and even after his release, our regular pediatrician was on top of the entire situation.”
A month later, Nicholas became sick again. “Our regular pediatrician was actually on vacation after he was released that time, and he was phoning the office to get updates from the other doctors about how Nicholas was doing,” Hasamear recalls. “Her attentiveness and compassion for our son’s well-being meant a lot to both my husband and me.”
Today, Hasamear’s son is 20 months old and doing well. And as Hasamear’s story illustrates, the choice of a pediatric practice can play a critical role in a child’s well-being.
“It’s important to find a good fit. You have to be able to trust and communicate with your pediatrician,” says Dr. Janet Ruzycki, chief of pediatrics at St. Luke’s Hospital. “You entrust your pediatrician with the care of your child—physically, emotionally, developmentally. You also want someone who is easy to talk to and to get information.”
When it comes to finding a pediatrician, Ruzycki recommends taking referrals from family and friends and contacting a physician referral service from a local hospital. She also advises to obtain the list of doctors covered by the insurance company, and to research if the doctor is a board-certified or a board-eligible pediatrician.
“Also, you should look into location; you might want to find someone who’s close to home, to work or to daycare,” she says.
Once on an office visit, try to get a sense of the accessibility and friendlessness of the doctor and staff. Some questions to ask:
- How are phone calls handled, particularly after-hours and holidays, when a child is sick?
- What is the size of the pediatric office? Is there just one doctor? A team of doctors?
- How does the office handle last-minute appointment requests from parents during office hours?
- What is the doctor’s experience level? Do you want a doctor with 30 years’ experience or a younger doctor who may be more up-to-date with the latest on new treatments and procedures?
Additionally, Ruzycki recommends parents visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website, aap.org, to research the credentials of pediatricians and to gather more questions to ask during tours.
Failing to ask the right questions, Ruzycki warns, can lead to dissatisfied parents. “It’s sad when you have certain expectations, don’t ask the right questions and end up disappointed,” she says. “That’s unfortunate.”
In the end, Hasamear reminds parents or parents-to-be to trust their instincts when it comes to hiring or switching pediatricians.
“Remember your decision is not set in stone,” she says. “There are many choices out there for a new parent. Always listen to your gut though, much like choosing a daycare. If you think something isn't a right fit for you and your child, then it probably isn't and go to the next one.”