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Tips for choosing a pediatrician

Choosing a pediatrician can be tricky. But there's plenty of advice on the topic. Here's what some pediatricians and parents suggest you look for when on the doctor hunt:

1. Check a doctor's credentials and disciplinary actions at the Florida Medical Board website. The pediatrician should be board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

2. Ask fellow parents for their suggestions. "It's not foolproof,'' said John Moses, a practicing pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center, but good reputations follow good doctors. (Post your pediatrician search in our Kids' Health forum, to get recommendations from other local moms).

3. Ask your obstetrician and the delivery nurses at the hospital for their advice. They work with pediatricians every day.

4. Consider the size of the practice. Some parents prefer smaller practices so they get to know every doctor well. Others like bigger practices because somebody can always see their child.

5. How close is the doctor's office to your home? It's no fun driving 30 minutes with a child who has a fever or is throwing up. But some docs are worth it.

6. Many practices will let you meet the doctors first. It's ideal if both parents attend. You'll know if you click. Questions to ask at the visit: What are the night and weekend hours? Who answers phone questions during the day? Is the physician accessible to answer questions? What types of services are available at the office (for example, laboratory, and lactation)?

7. Does your doctor share your approach to parenting? A big point of contention these days is a child's vaccination schedule. Some doctors refuse to space out vaccines, so be sure to ask upfront if that's important to you.

8. The doctor's gender may be important. You may choose a mom figure for your little boy when he's young, then switch to a male doctor when he's older.

9. Does the pediatrician really seem to listen to your concerns? No doctor should ever make you feel stupid for asking questions, no matter how basic. During a visit, do you feel hurried? Sometimes, the doctors are seriously jammed, but you should be able to get in the important questions.

10. Don't be afraid to switch doctors. Yes, it can be a hassle transferring records, but seeing a doctor you don't like is worse.