As with every decision you have made for your child, choosing a pediatrician as a Black mother means asking advocacy questions. In this article from our newest expert contributor Giselle Baumet, you will learn key questions to ask when selecting a pediatrician, as well as when determining appropriate care for your child.
Research shows that non-minority pediatricians care primarily for non-minority children, and minority pediatricians have more minority children under their care. However, the problem is that there are significantly more non-minority pediatricians in the USA than there are in the minority. This means the chances that children of color will be cared for by non-minority pediatricians is great.
You may wonder why race is coming into play when choosing a pediatrician. It is acknowledged within the medical community that there are racial biases and cultural prejudices, and racism within the medical community, including pediatricians. This stems significantly from the documented history of medical mistreatment of Black people through the enslavement of Africans.
In California, a law requires healthcare service professionals working in perinatal services, which includes pediatricians, to take continuing education courses that contain a curriculum that provides for specified instruction in understanding implicit bias in medical treatment. Several states have also created similar laws.
The effectiveness of implicit bias courses are mixed, so Black mothers (and other mothers of color) must become their children’s strongest advocates to ensure that the pediatrician chosen is well-educated, not just in medical training but also in caring for children of color. It’s important that your pediatrician knows their implicit biases and has the training to not practice through these biases.
How to Find a Pediatrician
To start your search, ask for recommendations from experienced people around you. These are your OB-GYN, midwife, and other parents among your friends and family.
You can also visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) database to check referrals for your area.
Once you have a few names shortlisted, do some research on your own to check their credentials.
First, look up their names in your state’s medical board (American Board of Medical Specialties) to check their records.
It is recommended that you verify the pediatrician’s credentials to see if they are most up-to-date.
- Are they certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (AAP)?
- Are they a member of the AAP?
- Are they specially trained in the areas your child might need? This is especially important to consider if your child has some unique condition(s).
When you are finally down to 2-3 options, it’s time to give them a call and schedule an interview. Your friends may have a pediatrician they love, but this does not mean you will. It’s best to meet the pediatrician and know for yourself.
If the pediatrician doesn’t schedule interview sessions, you might want to consider that a red flag and find a more welcoming pediatrician open to being asked questions so that you can make a good decision.
16 Questions to Ask the Pediatrician During the Interview
Here is a comprehensive list of questions to ask your child’s potential doctor to know them better.
Have you and the other health care professionals in the office completed implicit bias training?
The obvious correct answer in this situation is a yes.
How long have you been practicing? Which medical school did you graduate from?
This will let you know their background, the medical school they graduated from, and how experienced they are.
Is this group practice?
Whether solo or group practice, you should know who will be filling in for the doctor if and when they are away.
This also matters because if you end up loving your pediatrician. You’ll want to know how easy it is to schedule appointments with your specific pediatrician.
What are office days and times? Are you available on weekends?
The timings should be compatible to fit with your schedule and job responsibilities.
What are your views on vaccination, breastfeeding, circumcision, and medications?
Asking this question is vital if you have your opinions and preferences for breastfeeding, circumcision, and the use of medicines. If you and the pediatrician are not aligned, you’ll want to move on to another option.
What insurances do you accept? What is your payment policy?
Paying out-of-pocket for your pediatrician visits can add up quickly. So you’ll want to make sure that your insurance covers your pediatrician.
Do you also advise on parenting and the baby’s emotional growth?
The more holistic care they provide for your child, the better. You’ll want a pediatrician who doesn’t just see symptoms but questions where symptoms are coming from and see your child as a whole being.
How often are well-child checkups scheduled?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center of Disease Control have recommended checkups for babies and children. Still, you’ll want to know if your pediatrician follows these or has their alternative schedule.
How much in advance do we have to schedule an appointment? What happens in case of an emergency?
This is important to know. Ideally, they offer same-day, walk-in checkups for emergencies.
How long does a checkup take?
Ideally, you should be able to ask your questions without feeling rushed.
What if there is an emergency when the office is closed? Do you make house calls?
Again, an essential question to ask. There must be a procedure for off-hour emergencies.
Do you answer calls, texts, or emails, and how long does it take for you to reply?
A good doctor should be friendly and flexible about taking calls and messages for minor queries. In the right moment, you’ll really appreciate being able to have this option.
What services and procedures does your clinic provide, and when do you refer to a hospital? Which hospitals are you affiliated with?
Pediatrician clinics might not have all kinds of testing facilities available, and especially in severe or unusual emergencies, your child would have to be admitted to a hospital. Find out the procedure for that and if your insurance covers those.
Are there separate waiting rooms for sick and healthy children?
There should be! And it should be an actual separation, not just sitting on one side of the room.
What are the minimum qualifications of the other nurses and staff on duty?
Often, it’s the nurses and other staff that you will be calling and interacting with. So, naturally, you’ll want to know how qualified these individuals are.
If your child is admitted, are parents allowed to stay overnight, too?
This one is particular to the pediatrician’s hospital, but they should answer this quickly for you.
Some of these questions could also be answered by the nurses or office staff. However, it is better to talk to the other staff on duty and get a good feel of the place. There are other things that you should be noting and asking yourself on your visit too.
6 Questions to Ask Yourself About the Office Visit
How easy was it to book an appointment?
Was the office staff professional and expedient? For example, how long did it take to schedule?
Did you like the office location? How long did it take to reach? Was there enough parking space?
If you didn’t like your experience finding the location, getting to talk to someone when you called, or being able to easily park… you’ll hate it when you have to do that regularly.
Was the office clean and well-maintained?
The office should be very hygienic, pleasant, and well-maintained.
How is the office decor? Did pictures and books represent children of color? Did they have toys, a play area, books, etc., for kids to play with?
These are the things that will help your child love visiting the pediatrician’s office. A pediatrician’s office decor should be child-friendly and designed with children of all colors in mind.
How friendly was the staff on duty? Was everyone kind, polite, and helpful? How was the team behaving with the children there?
Remember that you’ll regularly interact with the staff and nurses as a patient. In addition, you’ll want to look forward to going, so be sure to be mindful of how you feel when visiting the office.
How long did you have to wait in the waiting area?
There’s nothing more annoying as a mom than rushing to get to an appointment, only to have to sit in the waiting room for 15+ minutes waiting for your appointment. You’ll want to ask if that’s an occasional occurrence or a regular one.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself About the Pediatrician
Lastly, how did you feel while conversing with the doctor? Of course, the doctor’s personality is a crucial aspect.
A kind, patient and empathetic doctor would make his patients feel secure just by how they talk to and treat their patients. And for a children’s doctor or a pediatrician, this becomes even more important. Did you notice if they had patience, gentility, playfulness, and love for children?
So while you are interviewing your pediatrician, you should take note of these for yourself.
- Were they compassionate, patient, and helpful?
- Did they listen and communicate well?
- Did they give you enough time and answer all your questions, or were they in a hurry?
- Did they seem knowledgeable and well-experienced by their responses?
This comprehensive list of questions will help you decide which pediatrician to choose for your child. Since it’s a long list, you should keep it on your phone or print a copy to keep with you while interviewing.
6 Questions to Ask When Making an Informed Decision on Treatment for Your Child
You have the right to make informed decisions for the care of your child. Here are the questions that help you give the information you need to make a medical decision.
Is this an emergency, or do we have time to talk about it?
Very few situations will be an emergency, which gives you time to pause and ask further questions to make informed decisions.
What are the benefits of this procedure/intervention/medicine?
With this question, you should receive what benefit your child will receive if you say yes.
What are the risks of this procedure/intervention/medicine?
It’s common for the medical community to discuss benefits more than risks. However, you should aim to receive the top risks associated with the suggested care with this question. Be mindful that you receive risks, and not opinions.
What happens if I say yes?
Asking this question allows you to know what the entire process includes. For example, does it have additional medicines for side effects, restrictions on foods and liquids, in-patient or out-patient care, and so on. You want to have a complete picture of what you accept should you say yes.
What happens if I say no?
Should you say no to the suggested medical care, what happens? This is important to know, especially if you happen to be in the care of a health professional that calls Child Protective Services when the parent does not accept their suggested medical care.
What are our other options?
You’ll want to advocate for all possible options to be given to you, and with this question, you’ll be able to receive that.
The Takeaway for the Complete Guide to Choosing a Pediatrician as a Black Mother
You are your child’s best advocate. With these essential questions to ask your pediatrician, you’ll have the information you need to make an informed decision on your child’s medical care.
Be sure to bookmark this article so that you can refer back to it as needed.
Giselle Baumet is an herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at granolababies.com.