Babies and children are not just small adults. Their healthcare needs are different. So, it's important to find a healthcare provider who offers specialized care. The medical specialty dealing with children is called pediatrics. As a baby grows and develops, a primary care provider (PCP) is essential for routine care, as well as for illnesses or injuries. A pediatrician, family practice healthcare provider, physician's assistant, family nurse practitioner, or pediatric nurse practitioner can be your baby's PCP.
These healthcare providers may care for children from birth to age 21.
Well child care, including preventive health, such as vaccines and screening
Guidance for caregivers
Care for illnesses and injuries
Referrals to specialists as needed
Choosing a provider for your child is an important part of preparing for a new baby. There are many things to consider, such as their training, experience, and office location and hours.
Finding a provider is not hard, but you need to start as soon as possible. You can ask the healthcare provider who delivered your baby for names and talk with other parents about their provider. Many providers offer a special time for parents to come and visit the office, learn about them and their staff, and ask questions. There may or may not be a charge for this visit. It's often a good idea to meet with 2 or 3 providers before your baby is born.
Listed below are some things to consider when choosing a healthcare provider:
Questions about the office location include the following:
Is the office near your home or place of work?
How long does it take to get there during rush hour?
Is parking convenient?
Does the practice have more than one office?
Are the same providers at the same offices all the time?
Questions about the office itself include the following:
What are the office hours?
Are there weekend or evening hours?
How do you make an appointment?
How long does it take to get a well-child appointment?
How long does it take to get a sick-child appointment?
What about payments and billing? Is this provider listed on your insurance plan? What hospital is the provider affiliated with? Is this compatible with your insurance plan?
Does the office have walk-in hours?
How long do you have to wait in the office before you're seen?
Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
Do the office staff seem friendly and interested in children?
Questions about the provider include:
Ask about the provider's training and experience. Do they have a specialty or area of interest? Are they board certified? If so, have they recertified recently?
Ask about the provider's opinion on immunization and use of medicines. This includes antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines. Will they prescribe medicines over the phone?
Will your child see the same provider for all visits?
What happens if your child gets sick during the night or on weekends? Whom do you call?
As you talk with the provider and the office staff, you'll get a sense of whether they have the same philosophy of child raising as you do. You can also talk with other parents to find out their experiences and recommendations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a referral service for help in finding a qualified PCP or specialist.