Daddy Lessons Bites!: Finding A Pediatrician
Although there are SOME doctors that only practice for money, I personally believe the doctors that practice with integrity and genuine care far outnumber their black sheep, so to speak.
But as dads, it is our responsibility to find the best pediatrician and doctors for our children. After all, nothing should ever compromise our children's health. But choosing a pediatrician and making the process simple and stress-free isn't always easy.
So I present, this week's Daddy Lesson 101: How To Choose A Pediatrician (Whose Receptionist Won't Eat You Alive!)
1.) Another Parent's Word of Mouth is ALWAYS the best reference.
As a dad, sometimes it's hard for us to talk to other dads. Heck, even I sometimes think it's weird when I or other dads spark conversations. It doesn't come as easy as when moms do it.
But when you're looking for a pediatrician, a word of mouth reference from another parent is a great gauge of how that certain pediatrician performs. A fine example was when our hospital assigned us a certain pediatrician named Dr. Fateh Mohammed for our 2nd baby. So we went to see him a couple of times, and for those times he always seemed to treat my wife as if she was a moron, and turned to me and talked to me like I was an equal. I don't want to judge a person based on what his religion or ethnic background is, so let's just say that he came off very misogynistic.
At first we told ourselves that maybe he was just having a bad day. Then maybe it's just us. Finally, I decided that I'll start finding out exactly why we were treated that way. As luck would have it, I had started chatting with another father picking up medicines at our pharmacy, and I asked him if he knew a good pediatrician. As we started chatting, Dr. Mohammed's name came up. Turns out him and his wife had the same experience we did! Not only that, he said that other parents he knew were treated that way too! As soon as I realized this, I knew it was time to look for another pediatrician ASAP. Which leads us to our next lesson...
2.) Don't EVER Let Any Nurse/Hospital Staff/Secretary/Anyone Tell You That You Don't Have A Choice!
This is the biggest and most potentially dangerous misconception any parent could ever make. Even in Canada where health care is covered by taxes, we have a choice in choosing who we want to look after our health. We had assumed that since the hospital had "assigned" us a pediatrician, we were "bound" to this pediatrician. How wrong we were. All it took is a quick phone call to the local College of Physicians and Surgeons, and we knew we can choose our pediatrician, with the only barrier being if the pediatrician was no longer taking new patients.
Just because the hospital/office/receptionist/nurse tells you "Oh, this pediatrician is good", or "He/She is very smart and knowledgeable" , or worse, "We have no one else but this person to take you", doesn't mean YOU HAVE TO. YOU SHOULD BE THE JUDGE OF THAT, NOT THEM. You can have a guy with a Ph.D in Pediatrics with 20 years of experience, but if their accent is difficult to understand, or their laissez-faire attitude has left your child more sick than better, how can you establish a good relationship that will span YEARS with this individual? You can try, maybe it will work out, but most often it won't. Personally, I wouldn't.
If worse come to worse, where you feel your child needs to be seen by a pediatrician and not just a regular walk-in doctor, don't be afraid to take them to a local children's hospital, where 99% of the time (and in my case, 100% of the time at TheStollery Children's Hospital ) the doctor who will see your child in the emergency room is going to be a pediatrician. Personally, I don't mind waiting 4-8 hours (even more) in a children's emergency room. It's worth it, even if you walk away with nothing more but the stomach flu. It's a price a parent should be willing to pay to make sure their child's health is never compromised.
3.) Call Your Local College Of Physicians And Surgeons, Or Check Them Out Online For A List Of Potential Doctors.
This should be your next step. Google your province/state's College of Physicians and Surgeons, i.e., "Alberta College Of Physicians And Surgeons", and there should be a search/drop box that says "Looking For A Doctor?". Begin your search there, as most search functions allows you to filter potential doctors out via languages spoken, sex, specialty, area, etc. Some will even tell you if the doctor is still accepting new patients. Obtain all the numbers of potentially available doctors, and start calling.
4.) Don't Just Call The Clinic. Drop By Too.
You've probably heard of the saying, "A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing". Well, this is often the case with medical receptionists and clinic staff. They can sound sweet on the phone--that is their job, after all--but overtime, their true colors show. I know some of you may be saying, "Well, they have a stressful job, they're allowed to be jerks." I want to see how long before you eat those words. Point is, we all have jobs to do, and when we are at work, we should strive to do it. You do it, I do it. We let our emotions get in the way, we get penalized. Trust me, happened to me many times. So why should they be exempted?
When you drop by the clinic, observe how the receptionists are towards other parents. Are they rude? Snappy? Overtly expressive of the fact that in the doctor's clinic, they are gods since they control schedules? If you start to see any of those warning signs--use your intuition--you shouldn't totally discount the staff and the doctor's clinic right away, but do keep a mental note. And find a way to compromise.
A fine example was when we finally found a new pediatrician named Dr. Michael Bowman. Fine guy, looks like he's about my age, very soft spoken, very calm and he seems to genuinely care about his patients well-being. But turns out Dr.Bowman's office receptionist was one of those "wolves in sheep's clothing": She sounded sweet and innocent at first, but the more you dealt with her, the more her b-wordiness showed. From questioning why you didn't call her at 9 AM to book your appointment, to downright judging you for not having a car, to simply being crude when asked why you can't book an appointment for next week, this lady was hell. She reminds me of me when I was working pharmacy full-time, the kind of person who probably hates their job but can't leave because of what little power that position gives you. Leaving Dr.Bowman is out of the question, so how do I make the next few years of pediatric appointments better? Well, turns out she doesn't answer the phones on certain days. So perhaps I'll call on those days. Worse comes to worse, I'll ask to see Dr. Bowman at a different clinic (Don't forget to see if this option exists if you find a pediatrician you like, and a clinic staff you hate!)
5.) Keep The Rose-Coloured Glasses Off. And PLEASE Ask At Least 1-2 Questions!
So FINALLY you've found that perfect-on-paper pediatrician. Bilingual? Check. Open to new patients? Check. Plays the banjo at the local club on Saturdays? OK, I don't know how you would find that out. Anyways, everything seemed perfect. And then you get to meet the guy/gal. And then...it just doesn't click. Maybe he finds you annoying. Maybe you stare too much at her to even maintain normal eye contact. Or perhaps you simply don't gel...a clash of personalities...etc. You go for a few more visits, and nothing changes.
Do you leave? Look for a new doctor? NO. Unless the doctor is being rude, racist, is sexually harassing you, or is downright difficult to understand (thick accent, inaudible voice, etc.), simply because these reasons won't likely change or get better over time.
Rather, observe the way he/she is around your child.Is he as cold as Dr.House with you, but like an angel when dealing with your child? In our case, Dr.Mohammed treated my wife like crap,me with some respect, and our son very casually, borderline laisez-faire. And as a protective, attached dad, that doesn't sink well with me when a doctor treats any member of my family as just a number, and not as a person. And as a father yourself, you should never let anyone who is in charge of something as important as your family's health ever treat you like you're just a liability to them. YOU--people who need help,guidance,etc.--are the reason businesses exist and people get paid. Don't be afraid to ever make that known, in a civil, courteous way. Even doctors need to get paid--and in Canada, they get paid a set fee for every patient they see. The more patients they see, the more money they make. So for a doctor to treat you like a second class citizen when they're getting paid by the government the moment their receptionist inputs your health care number is a joke. So make sure you're not at the butt of it.
Oh, and do ask a question. Or two. This will help you gauge how the doctor deals with questions, in case an emergency someday arises. Even simple questions. Observe how they answer the question. Did they answer it? Did they brush it off? Did they consult their books (which is a great gauge of their scholastic integrity), or did they just Google their answer?(which to me screams UNPROFESSIONAL) Take mental notes of these.
Then, keep a mental note of all the things you like, and the things you don't. A good pros-and-cons breakdown will help. See if the goods outweigh the bads. Then, see if you can find ways around the bad. And always remember to put your child's welfare first. Don't be afraid to be critical, but be realistic.
And there ya go. Sure, this isn't the be-all, end-all list of what to look for when you're looking for a pediatrician. Many guides exist out there that can supplement this little 5-pointer. But I hope that from my personal experiences, these lessons help give you that extra edge in finding your perfect pediatrician.
Cheers to fathers everywhere around the world!