Finding a good doctor is important for anyone. It is imperative when one has a special needs baby. Before Charlie was born, I was only concerned with selecting a well educated, highly trained, and vastly experienced doctor (that takes my insurance). However, I have discovered there is more to consider when choosing a doctor. Fortunately, things fell into place when we found Charlie’s pediatrician. For all the NICU parents getting ready to bring your babies home, this post is for you. These are several factors I’ve found (sometimes the hard way) to be important when choosing a doctor.
First, excellent communication is crucial. In the past, Charlie had a few doctors with whom I communicated poorly. One spoke to me like I was an idiot and another was out right frightening with a harsh bed side manner. I adore Charlie’s pediatrician because she is able to translate medical jargon and will speak to me on my level. I feel that she is very receptive to my concerns and listens well. I feel comfortable asking questions or for a further explanation. Likewise, it is important the doctor communicates well with other specialists, therapists, or nurses as needed.
Additionally, you may want to select a doctor that practices at your hospital of choice. If your baby had to be readmitted, which hospital would you prefer? Is the doctor familiar with community resources? Does your doctor have realistic knowledge of the surrounding health care community? When Charlie had severe GI issues, she needed an immediate scan and to be seen quickly by a gastroenterologist. We lived in a densely populated area where it would have been weeks if the doctor had simply written the order for a scan and given the referral. However, Charlie’s doctor was savvy enough to help us circumvent the obstacles in order to get her cared for immediately.
Third, the doctor’s availability should be assessed. Are the office hours convenient? If you want to speak on the phone with the doctor, will they do that? What is the plan if something should happen after hours? Is it hard to get an appointment? Is the doctor always booked up? Is the location convenient? Charlie had a huge number of appointments her first year. They were exhausting and stressful enough without the added worry of challenging logistics.
Fourth, how well does (or will) your doctor know your baby? Charlie sees the same pediatrician each time. She recognizes Charlie on sight. With out checking the chart, the doctor is familiar with her issues and can spot her progress. This attribute is priceless in Charlie’s medical care. Minor changes (many of which are uncharted) can be the first sign of a big problem. The better a doctor knows your baby the quicker irregularities can be spotted.
Plus, it is helpful to have a doctor that shares your expectations as to what is appropriate for your baby. Charlie is developmentally delayed. It was a waste of time for us to see the doctor that gave her exercises that exceeded her skill level. However, I do not want a doctor that will give up on her either. Is your doctor on target with your baby’s abilities? Are the goals and course of treatments reasonable in your opinion? Not too easy or too hard?
Finally, do you trust the doctor? Are options explained when decisions need to be made? Do you feel comfortable discussing ideas, needs, questions, or concerns?
This list is not all inclusive. These are a few things I’ve managed to figure out with experience. I am grateful for Charlie’s pediatrician. Through out the chaos of Charlie’s first year, she has been the voice of reason that has kept Charlie healthy and encouraged her to thrive. She has set the bar pretty high for other doctors to follow.