The Interview: hiring your pediatrician


I go on about ten interviews a week.  Yes, every time I see a patient who is new to our practice, whether a newborn or an older child transferring to our practice, our first meeting is an interview of sorts.  In some communities, parents will interview a pediatrician prenatally.  There are places online where you can find a list of questions to ask your prospective pediatrician, such as their beliefs on antibiotics and their on call schedule.  In my practice, these prenatal interviews are uncommon, so often I see the newborn, or first, visit to our office as the time when the parent decides whether or not I will be their pediatrician for the following years.  Although I know that they are sizing me up during this initial encounter I sometimes forget that we are doing the interview dance until the end of the visit when they say something like, “so will you always be her pediatrician?”  There is no greater honor than to hear that after a few minutes with me the parents trust me with the medical care of their child going forward.

My prenatal pediatrician interview was my residency, where I spent half a day each week for three years learning the clinical practice styles of my mentors.  I was fortunate to have such a wealth of insider knowledge in making my choice.  In reality though, I could have chosen her after knowing her for only a few minutes.  Whenever someone asks me which of my colleagues they should use, I think carefully about matching the family and the physician with each other.  There is not one best doctor in our group, no one person stands out as the one that everyone should use, as it is a very personal decision.  I expect that while some patients may be looking for a pediatrician like me, others will need something that I cannot give them, and I have colleagues who will be a better fit.

Unlike other specialties of medicine, a pediatrician needs to grow with a family.  In pediatrics, the patient may be a child or adolescent, but the whole family is involved.  Therefore, the pediatrician has to be as good a fit for the child as they are the parent.  They have to be just as good at talking with a 3-year-old as they are a 60-year-old.  They have to be able to be silly and serious, sometimes within seconds of each other.  They have to be comfortable managing issues that range from breastfeeding to sexually transmitted diseases to school truancy to congenital heart disease all within the same day.  It is hard to imagine everything you will need from your pediatrician when you are just starting on your parenting journey, but if your pediatrician doesn’t make the transition well with you, there are always others out there who will.

A mother recently told me that she chose me after “searching the websites” and something about my profile struck her.  I don’t know whether it was my picture, my resume, or my listed interest in adoption medicine, but some trait attracted her to me as the person who could care for her son.  Most importantly though, after a thirty minute visit where she watched me interact with her son and listened to my guidance about his medical conditions, she chose me again.  This second decision is what excites me most, not that she likes my resume, but that she likes me as a pediatrician.  While I know that not every first patient visit will go so well, I know that while I may not be the right pediatrician for everyone, I will keep striving to be the best pediatrician for the patients who will have me.

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  1. I just came across your blog via your recent KevinMD post. Looking forward to following along as I start my pediatric residency at Tufts on Monday! Your insight and reflections are greatly appreciated.

    1. Thanks for finding your way to my blog and commenting! I hope that my blog is helpful along your journey as a pediatric resident. Residency is HARD but so rewarding. And you will make memories and friendships there that last a lifetime. I just finished reading a book that you may enjoy called “The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly” about an internal medicine intern year. Great read for anyone going through it… or maybe after going through it and reflecting on it. I hope you keep reading Mommy Call though! And good luck!!

  2. I asked my Facebook friends for their recommendation on a pediatrician. Out of the 10 people who commented with their referrals, 7 of those recommendations were for one pediatrician. My questions were answered more quickly this way!

  3. I like how you take time to match a family with a physician that fits their needs. I think that every hospital and care center should do that. I also like how you say that there isn’t one best doctor. It all depends on each person’s individual situation.

  4. It’s interesting to know the difference between pediatrics and other forms of medicine. I had never considered it before, but like you said, the pediatrician needs to grow with the family. I will make sure to take my time and choose a good one when that time comes!

  5. You make an excellent point about the many conditions that a pediatrician needs to keep an eye out for with each young patient they see. Early detection is key with so many of these ailments, so finding a skilled expert that can keep an open mind is needed.

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