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Should You Break Up with Your Pediatrician?

Actual photo of our first pediatrician.

Maybe you interviewed your pediatrician when you were pregnant, or maybe you just go to the doctor that was at the top of the list your insurance company gave you. Either way: Are you happy with the care your children are getting?

Parenting.com offers five signs that you need to switch pediatricians, but I think they actually missed a few important ones.

Here are Parenting.com’s reasons to switch:

1. You can’t get a word in edgewise. If your doctor doesn’t give you the opportunity to ask questions, that’s a problem.

2. Your doctor doesn’t follow through. If your pediatrician says he or she will call you back in a given time frame, and doesn’t, it’s a sign the office is overwhelmed and may not be able to handle its caseload.

3. Your doctor is a pushover. Parenting.com gives the example that if you go to an appointment dead-set against a vaccine, the doctor has the responsibility to fill you in on why that may not be the best choice for your child. Your doctor should have opinions (but shouldn’t force them on you).

4. Your doctor rushes through a physical exam. Does your pediatrician rush through well checks? Not a good sign.

5. Your doctor is not board certified. Gaahhhh, what? It never even occurred to me to check on this (although I did after I read this article), but there are pediatricians who are practicing without board certification.  Check to see if your doctor is board certified at the American Board of Pediatrics website. Don’t see your doc there? Don’t freak out. He or she may be listed under a specialty at The American Board of Medical Specialties. If your pediatrician is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, he or she should be listed at The American Osteopathic Association.

Parenting.com also says the occasional long wait for the doctor isn’t a good reason to switch: it means the doctor is spending enough time with each patient.

I’ve got three more reasons you might want to consider switching:

A poorly run office. A good friend of mine just switched pediatricians because the doctor’s office staff was just plain rude. The occasional long wait had turned into the every time wait because the practice was so over-scheduled, and it was hard to get through on the phone.  If your doctor’s office can’t handle answering the phone, can it handle, you know, not losing your kid’s file?

Your kid doesn’t like the doctor. Does your pediatrician have all the bedside manner of Dr. Evil? If the doctor doesn’t take a minute to be friendly and playful with your child, she’s not going to grow up wanting to be open with her doctor, and that’s a real problem.

Your doctor dismisses your concerns. This is more than just not listening. This is listening, but not caring what you have to say. I can’t emphasize enough how much this pisses me off.

When my twins were born, they cried a lot. Even as a first-time mom, I knew that something was wayyyy the hell off. It just seemed like they were in pain all the time, but especially after they ate. I kept asking our pediatrician, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, about it. His response, I kid you not, was:

Babies cry, Mrs. Gray.

Yeah, they do. But they don’t cry like they’re being stabbed, 80 percent of the time they’re awake.

By writing down exactly how much they ate and when, and when they cried, I realized that exactly 40 minutes after they had a bottle, they screamed, arched their backs, and wept. For their six-month well-check, I timed one of my daughter’s feedings so that she could demonstrate this nifty trick at the pediatrician’s office. This time, the pediatrician said:

Well, that’s not normal.

He then decided to schedule a test for acid reflux, but just for the one baby that was screaming. Over the deafening noise, I tried to explain that both babies did this, I just didn’t time both their feedings for office freak-outs, because then I’d be at the doctor with two screaming babies.  Dr. Doofenshmirtz didn’t seem to think this was enough “evidence” to warrant ordering a test for both babies.

At that point, I had a long overdue, good old-fashioned Mommy Freak-Out. I explained that he was out of his damn mind if he thought I was going to cart two infants into the city so that one baby could have a test that both needed. I basically demanded that he write the orders for both babies, and then gave him the Mommy Stare of Death until he begrudgingly did so.

Our new pediatrician, Dr. McDreamy.

After that appointment (and both reflux tests were scheduled), I went home and called a different pediatrician. This one, who we’ll call Dr. McDreamy, I had met with during my pregnancy, but decided against because I thought a single-doctor practice wouldn’t have flexible enough hours.  I explained the situation, and luckily, he was able to schedule us into his practice right away.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s practice tried to charge us for transferring the girls’ files, but I again explained the part about them being out of their damn minds, and that charge was waived.

When the girls’ reflux tests came back showing that they indeed had severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Dr. McDreamy referred us to a top pediatric gastroenterologist and we got that situation dealt with. As our twins continued to struggle during their first two years, our pediatrician supported us and coordinated care with gastroenterologists, allergists, dermatologists, pulmonologists, and orthopedists.

Fast-forward a few years, and those little girls had two younger siblings. The single-doctor practice I thought wouldn’t have enough hours for us? Yeah, he calls us on the weekend to see how the kids are. When our youngest was nine months old, Dr. McDreamy literally saved our son’s life with his frequent phone calls to check on our son over a weekend. He eventually had us come see him on a Sunday afternoon, and then sent us to the nearest children’s hospital, where Little Dude was treated for a rare, potentially life-threatening disease called Kawasaki Disease.

Did we make the right choice in changing pediatricians? You bet. I am still thrilled with that decision. We now have four healthy, happy, amazing children who rightfully adore and trust their doctor.

Changing pediatricians is not a decision to take lightly, especially if you have  a long history with that doctor. But it’s important to remember that you’re the client, you’re the advocate for your child, and you have the right to make changes when it’s the best thing for your family.

For another positive take on breaking up with a pediatrician, see Madeleine Holler’s essay, The Chubbiest Baby on the Block.

(Photo Credits:  Dr. Doofenschmirtz, Disney. Patrick Dempsey, Wikimedia Commons.)

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