Your child’s pediatrician should be one of his or her biggest advocates. You’ll see them often, so having a doctor who fits in with your family is essential.

Dr. Becca Perin, a pediatrician at Arkansas Children's Hospital and an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, shared her thoughts on finding a pediatrician who is right for your family.

What are some requirements of a good pediatrician?

A pediatrician is a physician who specializes in the care of children. Their educational background includes college, four years of medical school (allopathic or osteopathic) followed by three years of residency training in pediatrics. A pediatrician should be board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics and be licensed to practice by the State Medical Board.

How do you know if a pediatrician is a good fit for your family?

Dr. Becca Perrin

The doctor-patient-parent relationship is extraordinarily special. Find a pediatrician you can trust and feel comfortable openly communicating with, even during stressful times. Give the relationship time to develop as you get to know each other. Research pediatricians in your local community and ask close friends and family if they can recommend someone they know and trust.

What questions should a parent ask when choosing a pediatrician?

Many pediatricians offer a prenatal visit where you can interview the pediatrician and get to know the practice before your baby arrives. Learn about your pediatrician's goals and management style. Share your own goals for your child and their health. Find out about after-hours call line and clinic availability. Ensure that your child's pediatrician provides vaccinations on schedule.

How does a parent know when their child needs to visit a specialist?

General pediatricians can manage a wide variety of acute and chronic problems in children, such as asthma, eczema and ADHD. Some more complex medical issues, or those that do not respond to first-line treatments, may need the help of a specialist. Your pediatrician can help determine if your child needs the additional expertise of a specialist, and they can work closely together to provide appropriate care for your child.

When is it appropriate to "get a second opinion"?

As a parent, it is important to advocate for your child. If you feel that there are needs of your child that aren't being met, start by talking directly with your pediatrician to see if these concerns can be addressed. Often, your pediatrician can provide reassurance and guidance on next steps. If you still feel concerned, consider requesting a visit with another pediatrician colleague in the practice, or possible referral to a specialist.

How can a parent make sure they're at the right specialist and one who can help their child?

Your pediatrician should make a referral to the appropriate specialist — for example, a neurologist will manage seizures, and an endocrinologist will manage diabetes. Some medical problems will be co-managed by more than one specialist. All the while, your pediatrician provides the medical home and care coordination for your child.