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.