Babies and children are not just small adults—their healthcare needs are different. So, it is important to find a healthcare professional that can provide specialized care. As a baby grows and develops, a healthcare provider is essential for routine care as well as illnesses or injuries. A pediatrician, family practice healthcare provider, physician's assistant, family nurse practitioner, or pediatric nurse practitioner can be your baby's primary care provider. The medical specialty dealing with children is called pediatrics.
What care does a primary care provider give?
These providers may care for children from the time they are newborns until 21 years of age.
Well child care
Preventive health including immunizations and screening
Guidance for caregivers
Care for illnesses and injuries
Referrals to specialists as needed
Choosing a healthcare provider
Choosing a provider for your child is an important part of preparing for a new baby. There are many things to consider from training and experience to their office location, hours, and routines.
Finding a provider is not hard, but you need to begin as soon as possible. You can ask the healthcare professional who delivered your baby for names, and talk with other parents about their provider. It is often a good idea to meet with 2 or 3 prospective providers before your baby is born. Many healthcare providers offer a special time for parents to come and visit the office, learn about the providers and staff, and ask questions. There may or may not be a charge for this visit.
Listed below are some things to consider when choosing a healthcare provider:
Questions about the office location include the following:
Is the office near your home or place of work?
How long does it take to get there during rush hour?
Is parking convenient?
Does the practice have more than one office?
Are the same providers at the same offices all the time?
Questions about the office itself include the following:
What are the office hours?
Are there weekend and/or evening hours?
How do you make an appointment?
How long does it take to get a well-child appointment?
How long does it take to get a sick-child appointment?
What about payments and billing? Is this provider listed on your insurance plan? What hospital is the provider affiliated with? Is this compatible with your insurance plan?
How long do you have to wait in the office before you are seen?
Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
Do the office staff seem friendly and interested in children?
The healthcare provider
Questions about the healthcare provider include the following:
Ask about the provider's training and experience. Does he or she have a specialty or area of interest? Is he or she board-certified, and if so, has he or she recertified recently?
Ask about the provider's opinion on immunization, and use of medicines, particularly antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines. Does he or she prescribe medicines over the phone?
Will your child see the same provider for all visits?
What happens if your child gets sick during the night or on weekends? Whom do you call?
As you talk with the healthcare provider and the office staff, you will develop a sense of whether they have the same philosophy of child raising as you do. You can also talk with other parents to find out their experiences and recommendations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a referral service for help in finding a qualified healthcare provider or specialist.