Preparing for Discharge:
Finding a Pediatrician
One of your main tasks in preparing for your baby’s discharge is to decide who will follow your baby’s medical care beyond the NICU. Selecting a medical caregiver can be comforting because it ensures that you won’t be cast adrift from medical support after discharge. In many NICUs, these practitioners have minimal contact with the baby during the hospital stay, becoming involved only upon discharge.
Now that your baby has spent time in the NICU, your ideas about pediatric care may have changed. Your baby’s special beginning and perhaps ongoing needs may have heightened your desire to work with practitioners who are knowledgeable, thorough, responsive, available, and reassuring without being dismissive. Part of your role as parent involves clarifying both your baby’s needs and your own needs—and seeking a physician who will respect and honor them. Especially if you consider yourself a member of the NICU health care team, you will want a pediatrician who considers you a teammate as well.
Here are some other issues you might consider:
· Is this doctor in independent practice or part of a group? How is on-call and vacation coverage arranged? How do you reach the doctor in an emergency?
· Does this doctor see your vigilance as a healthy adaptation to having a fragile newborn or a sign of pathological anxiety? Will he or she honor your job as parent and partner in your baby’s care?
· What is this doctor’s approach to collaborating with other physicians and specialists? Does this fit with your ideas and your baby’s needs?
· Who will coordinate your baby’s medical care if she or he must see multiple specialists?
· What is the doctor’s stance on breast-feeding? How much support and encouragement can you expect if you are committed to breast-feeding but are struggling?
· Is this doctor specifically experienced with premature or special needs infants?
· What is this physician’s attitude toward developmental follow-up?
· Do you get the impression that your questions or concerns will be taken seriously and not brushed off? Does this physician ask for your observations and/or listen carefully to you?
· What sort of support do you feel you need as the parent of your baby? Does this doctor appear to be interested and able to provide this type of support?
· What does your intuition tell you about how well you and this doctor can work together? Do your styles of relating mesh well? Does this physician seem warm and open to you?
Deciding on a pediatrician can be challenging for any new parent. It’s okay to make a choice and then switch after a few months if the fit is lacking. Trial runs can be part of finding a practitioner who will collaborate with you as your child grows. Look for a pediatrician who values your input and boosts your confidence. There are many pediatricians who work very well with former NICU babies and families, and you shouldn’t have to settle for less. You and your baby deserve to get the extra care and support you need.