From routine visits such as back to school physicals, well check-ups, and preventive care to vaccinations and medical treatment when your infant or child is sick or injured, the pediatrician you choose can have a big impact on your child’s overall health and well-being. Finding the right pediatrician with whom you can build a strong, lasting relationship is important for other reasons, too. As a parent, it gives you peace of mind that the doctor will know your child’s full medical history and temperament. Seeing the same pediatrician consistently also allows your child to grow comfortable enough with the doctor to express what hurts or how they feel.

Whether you are expecting your first baby, have moved into a new neighborhood, or your pediatrician has retired, an office with the right location and flexible hours is usually important for busy patents. If you’re a working parent, it’s especially important to determine if a prospective pediatrician offers flexible hours on the edges of or outside the typical 8 AM to 5 PM weekday appointment time frame. Is there an after-hours or a weekend clinic? Is there a physician or physician assistant on call if your child gets sick after hours? Much of this basic information can be found online on the pediatrician’s website. If not, call the office with a well-prepared list of questions and take notes.

You may also consider whether you want a smaller practice with one or two pediatricians, or a large practice with multiple locations and several healthcare providers. There are pros and cons to each. A larger practice can usually meet your needs when your child has an unexpected illness and your regular doctor is unavailable. A smaller practice, on the other hand, may offer a more personalized experience for you and your children. Also take into account that some practices include physician assistants and nurse practitioners who not only see patients but answer questions you may have over the phone.

Once you’ve done some initial research, schedule an interview with the pediatricians you think will be a good fit. Many offer free in-office consultations where parents can ask questions and get a feel for the doctor’s personality and approach. During your consult, ask about the provider’s training and experience and determine if he or she is board certified or eligible to be board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Ask what schedule they recommend for vaccinations and about the protocol if your child requires hospitalization. Equally important is your assessment of the practice as a whole. Does the staff appear helpful, cheerful, and attentive? Do the nurses and other care givers seem kind and compassionate? Is the office clean and welcoming?

Chances are good that you will find several options that have the right office location, staffing, and credentials. Your decision may come down to choosing a pediatrician that you and your child can feel most comfortable with and will enjoy seeing. You will be going to the office and visiting him or her for many years to come as your child grows up.