Choosing a Pediatrician or Family Doctor for Your Baby


When compiling your birth plan, one of the decisions needing to be made includes choosing a doctor to care for your baby after he’s born. Parents choose medical care providers for a variety of reasons, and you want to be sure to choose someone who will best meet the needs of your family. Wondering about your options? A pediatrician, family physician, and pediatric nurse practitioner are all qualified to see and treat children.

Pediatrician – Specifically for kids

A pediatrician is a doctor who has studied specifically to provide care for children from birth through adolescence. Emphasizing preventative care, pediatricians assess the social, emotional, and physical health of children. These medical doctors complete four years of medical school, then an additional three years of pediatric residency. Each year, they must complete continuing education credits and every seven years they take exams to recertify with the American Board of Pediatrics – this means all pediatricians should be knowledgeable on evolving treatment methods and how to best provide care for your little one. Some pediatricians pursue further training in a subspecialty such as oncology, cardiology, or neonatology. Be aware that a pediatrician may be a better choice if your baby has any medical conditions which require specialized care.

A family doctor has more varied training

A family physician finishes four year of medical school then a three-year residency, during which he/she spends several months at a time in a different specialty (orthopedics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, etc.). Hence, family doctors have a broader scope of training than do pediatricians. Though they do spend some time in pediatrics during the residency, some don’t see children under a certain age, so be sure to ask. One great advantage to choosing a family physician is that everyone in your family can visit the same doctor and he/she can have a greater understanding of your family’s medical history and overall health.

What is a pediatric nurse practitioner?

A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) can be found in private practice, hospitals, and clinics and work closely with doctors. PNPs have earned a master’s degree in nursing and can specialize, just like pediatricians.

What can help me decide?

Still unsure whether to choose a family doctor or pediatrician for your baby? These questions may help you come to a decision:

  • Will your insurance cover visits to this doctor?
  • Is he/she certified through the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)?
  • Do they come recommended by family or friends who have received care from this doctor and/or clinic?
  • What is the office situation and staff like?
  • What are the payment policies?
  • How does this doctor handle emergencies or off-hour needs?
  • Is the doctor’s personality and style compatible with your own?

Choosing a care provider to see your newborn baby is an important decision, but it doesn’t need to be permanent. If you find that things just aren’t working out initially, do more research and try someone else. What matters most is that you are comfortable with the quality of care your child is receiving.

Do you prefer a family physician or a pediatrician? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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