Choosing a primary care physician for your child and family can feel like a big responsibility. While it is an important decision, it’s not one you should lose sleep over. Just do a little reading, ask some questions and make a decision. Then calm down.
The Advantages of Seeing a Pediatric Specialist
All doctors have to do three years of residency after completing medical school. Pediatricians do theirs in a pediatric care setting.
This means that even a newly minted pediatric specialist has several years of experience working exclusively with children. This helps them hone not only their specialized knowledge of developmental issues and medical problems peculiar to children, but it also helps them develop their ability to establish trust and communicate effectively.
It can be challenging enough just getting an adult to effectively explain what is wrong in layman’s terms such that a doctor can confidently diagnose the problem correctly. It’s much harder with the communication challenges one faces in dealing with children.
Their experience dealing with children means they will generally provide superior medical results. It also means the quality of the experience will likely be better, making your child more willing to cooperate in seeing a doctor when needed.
Pediatric offices also design their waiting area with children in mind. There will be reading material geared towards children and there may be a play area with toys.
The decor may also be bright and playful in nature. It may be designed to appeal to children and make them feel like this is a friendly play space, not an intimidating space.
At one time, large families with many children were the norm. These days, it’s much more common for a family to have only one or two children.
This means that families today often need basic information about what is developmentally normal. A pediatrician can help supply that information and help a family determine if a child really is just going through a completely normal but awkward stage of development or if they need testing to check if something is wrong.
A pediatrician can also be especially valuable for a child with chronic health issues. Some chronic conditions have their own specialists, and these are often divided up between pediatric specialists for that condition and specialists for that condition who treat adults.
Pros and Cons of Seeing a Family Medicine Doctor
A family medicine doctor, also known as a general practitioner, is a doctor who had a more varied residency experience. They did not work solely with children, which can be both a strength and a weakness.
While they will obviously tend to have less refined skills for talking with children in specific, their broader knowledge base also has advantages. They may have spent their time learning about larger patterns in the community that can impact specific members of the community, including the children who live there.
Choosing a family medicine doctor for your child may allow the entire family to see the same doctor as their primary care physician. This can enhance their understanding of the family history. Sometimes this helps tip a doctor off in cases of early warning signs for health issues that tend to run in the family.
Their waiting room is unlikely to be geared towards the interests of children. There may be no toys and all reading material may be geared towards adults. The space may be more somber and have a less friendly, playful feel to it.
Other Deciding Factors
In a perfect world, you would just pick the doctor you like best. This isn’t a perfect world and here are a few other considerations that may play a role in your decision:
- Location and physical amenities.
- Are they covered by your policy?
- Overall convenience.
Maybe the location is far out of your way or has other accessibility issues pertinent to your specific needs, such as parking challenges or a lack of elevators. Maybe they are an out-of-network provider and billing them will be a huge headache that also costs you a great deal out of pocket.
On the other hand, maybe they are right next door to a pharmacy or lab, so getting your prescriptions filled or getting tests they’ve ordered is especially convenient. It may be worth traveling a little farther or spending a little more out of pocket to access such perks.
Make a list of doctors in your area. Check your policy to see who is in network and who isn’t. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations.
Then make the best decision you can with the information available. Afterwards, make your peace with it and stop second-guessing yourself. All parents worry. That’s natural and normal. But you don’t have to make yourself crazy in the process.