Tips For Expats Choosing A Pediatrician Or Family Practitioner

Many parents/caregivers have had experiences in the past where they’ve had a rude awakening to the fact that Doctors or Physicians are simply human beings who can make mistakes or sometimes they simply have a bad day. We all have stories we can share about good and bad Physicians.

Fundamentally, as parents we can appreciate how important it is to choose a Physician that we like, can relate to, who listens and importantly we and our children feel comfortable with and trust. Through experience many of us no longer settle for any Physician simply because they wear the hat of a Pediatrician or GP.

In the UK we had a Family Practitioner, the benefits being they could take care of my entire family, so for instance, if myself and my child were ill we could both go to our Physician together. Additionally, they are aware and have access to the entire family’s medical history under one roof, which can be a great time saver and an asset in that because of the family history relationship developed, your Physician tends to be in tune with family issues which could also impact on you or your child’s health. That said, any good Pediatrician should hopefully be able to join the dots and recognize a connection.

Here in America, the benefits of selecting a Pediatrician as opposed to the Family Practitioner are that the Pediatrician has received extensive training focusing on child medicine. The Pediatrician’s 3 year residency is dedicated to child care and according to The American Academy of Pediatrics we can rest assured our children are being treated by an expert in children’s healthcare.

Family Practitioners also complete a three year residency program after medical school but their focus is on taking care of adults and pregnancies of which they may have approximately 6 months Pediatric training. The Family Practitioner has an additional responsibility to ensure they keep abreast of all the latest developments or advances in Pediatric as well as Adult medicine if they are to be an effective Practitioner.

If you elect to choose a Family Practitioner to treat your children then I would recommend you consider the following important points:

o Find a Physician who has regular experience treating a lot of children. A Physician with a couple pediatric patients a day isn’t ideal option, it could be an indication that he lacks experience of treating children.

o Choose a Surgery (Physicians Office) which always has an after hours Physician available that is able to take care of children should your Physician be unavailable.

To find that physician who meets your criteria, you can seek referrals for a good physician from any/all the following sources:

o Family or friends, whose choices are usually based on trust and confidence, but bear in mind that their decision is based strictly on how they relate to the Physician, you would obviously have to explore the recommendation yourself by making your own observations.

o If you’ve recently moved your former physician can give you suggestions, or

o Contact The American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s a professional organization which will provide you with a list of member Physicians in your area. In order for the physician to be accepted as a member of the AAP, pediatricians must meet a certain criteria, including being board certified in pediatrics (which means a physician has completed a prescribed period of residency in the specialty, passed oral and written exams and handled a minimum number of cases). The physician must also provide “evidence of high ethical and professional principals” as evaluated by AAP members in the district where the Physician resides. For the names of AAP members in your community, send SAE and a note indicating the city and state where you are searching, to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Department C-Pediatrician Referral, 141 Northwest Point Blvd., P.O. Box 927, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-0927

After you made your decision, should you discover the relationship just has not developed positively between your Physician and yourself it’s then time to MOVE ON!

Here is a list of warning signals:

o Your child’s apparent anxiety about going to the Physician is beyond what you consider to be a normal fear of getting a shot.

o Your child is ill and has received a couple different treatments but is still not recovering or getting worse. To be fair some treatments can be stubborn or difficult to diagnose or treat but a lingering illness is a definite warning sign. At this stage ask to see a specialist. Its more advantageous to have a Physician who can admit they do not know what the problem is rather than pretend to have all the answers

o The physician shouldn’t make you feel foolish or irritating when you ask for more information, details, or raise a medical concern for your child. You must feel comfortable to discuss your concerns on any level with your physician.

o The physician does not spend enough time with your child and you feel somehow rushed during your child’s checkup. Do you feel you have enough of an opportunity to ask all your questions and get answers to what you want to know?

o The Physician over-treats your child. Will your Physician order a whole range of tests for a minor cold?

o Physician does not listen, ignores your concerns and observations. If your Physician is not interested in what you have to say about your child’s symptoms, is reluctant to explain details of examinations or test. Maybe its time to reconsider.

o Physician objects to you wanting a second opinion. This is a potentially dangerous situation. Physicians are not infallible they are of course human beings. Secondly do not ask such a Physician for referrals as they will more than likely refer you to someone who is like-minded with similar practices to themselves.