Months before my firstborn was due, I researched and spoke to local moms about which pediatric practice they chose and why. I also scheduled three separate meet and greets at the physicians’ offices we were considering. I asked questions such as:
- How many doctors are part of this practice?
- Do you offer same-day sick appointments?
- Do you accept routine, non-emergency questions by phone?
- Do you have a lactation consultant on staff?
- Will you be available to discuss behavioral developments with me during visits? And,
- Do you support an alternate vaccination schedule?
After my husband and I attended all the meet and greets, we decided to go with a large practice that had multiple doctors on staff, two office locations and flexible scheduling hours. The doctor facilitating the meet and greet made us feel confident in our decision. She quickly calmed some of our initial worries by assuring us that we could pick a primary physician that would tend to all our daughter's well visits (so she wouldn’t constantly be seeing a new doctor) and that they would allow us to direct the vaccine schedule.
Our initial visits with the doctor went well until we hit the 8 week mark, when the first set of vaccines is given to baby. We reminded our doctor that we wanted to use an alternative schedule and she immediately responded that she had to inform us of the possible implications of not following the American Academy of Pediatrics immunization schedule. We respected that she needed to advise us, but quickly became angered when each subsequent visit consisted of the doctor quizzing us on why we chose an alternate schedule to downright telling us we could kill our child by following our approach. I was offended because we were vaccinating our children but we wanted to break up the shots so that our children never get more than two shots at a time.
The benefit of a large practice also quickly became a negative aspect. We rarely saw the same doctor twice during short periods of time even when scheduling weeks ahead for well visits.Remember the same-day sick visits they offered? Sure, we could go into the office on the same day, but the wait period would be anywhere from thirty minutes to 1 hour! Try managing a sick, vomiting 10 month old in a doctor’s waiting room for an hour! On top of that, each doctor had different opinions on different diagnosis' and treatments. They also gave uniformed advice when it came to developmental milestones; they rarely asked about the strengths, weaknesses, or readiness of our kids.
After a year of holding out hope that things would change, I realized we needed to switch practices. This time around, I went for the extreme opposite: a pediatric practice that only had one doctor — with one location — who was truly in support of our vaccine schedule and never kept us waiting longer than 10 minutes for an appointment.
Now, my husband and I no longer have anxiety when it's time to bring our daughters to the doctor and we no longer leave angry and feeling judged for our decisions and questions. Our new doctor knows our daughter’s names, remembers the personal stories and information we share and never rushes us out. He personally calls us back on the evenings and weekends and answers our silliest questions. He's reminded me that healthcare isn’t always about quantity, but rather quality.
Looking back, I wish I made the switch sooner. What held me back? The belief that the former practice was the best based on the feedback from so many and the fear that I would switch from something bad to something worse.
I hear moms complain all the time about their pediatric physicians, but most never switch and instead, they settle. My advice to them is not to stand for being unsatisfied with your child’s healthcare. You are their only advocate and you should receive not only the best care for them, but also have a positive experience each time your child has to visit their office.
How did you pick your child’s physician?