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    Choosing a Pediatrician
    Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento

    Your child's pediatrician will be a very important part of your family's life from birth until high school graduation. Choosing your pediatrician wisely requires finding the best combination of medical expertise, ability to communicate easily with you and your child, staff friendliness and convenience. If your child has particular needs or you have a healthcare philosophy about which you feel strongly, your search should include finding a pediatrician who can meet those needs.

    Pediatric training, certification and licensing | back to top

    Pediatricians are physicians who have completed college, medical school and an additional three-year residency training that enables them to treat the special needs of children from birth through adolescence. They then take a comprehensive written exam to be become certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Board certification lasts seven years before the test must be taken again.

    Many pediatricians also complete a subspecialty fellowship that allows them to take an exam to become certified in areas such as pediatric neurology, pediatric critical care, and other pediatric subspecialties.

    The State of California also requires all doctors to be licensed to practice and to complete 25 hours of accredited continuing education each year.

    When and how to find a pediatrician
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    It's best to start looking for a pediatrician when you are about six months pregnant. That will give you sufficient time to follow up on referrals and interview prospective pediatricians before your baby is born.

    The most common, and often the best way, to find a pediatrician is to ask friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances for recommendations.

    If you have switched insurance plans, decided to find a new pediatrician, or moved to a new neighborhood and don't know who to ask, you can access our Physician Locator tool that will provide names of pediatricians located close to your home or work. We also offer a 24-hour referral hotline available seven days a week by calling (800) 4-SUTTER (478-8837).

    What to ask when interviewing pediatricians | back to top

    Because your pediatrician will play such an important role in your child's life, it's a good idea to meet and talk with potential candidates before you make a decision.

    Before the interview, prepare a list of questions that cover your major areas of concern. Questions to ask fall into several categories, some of which will be more important to you than to someone else:
    • Background and credentials - Our Physician Locator tool lets you look up Sutter-affiliated physicians by name to see a brief biographical sketch, including education, board certification, hospital privileges, special interests and other helpful information. If you have questions, you can also check the status of a physician's license online at and see if prospective pediatricians are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics on the board's Web site: In addition, you might want to ask how long the physician has been in practice in your area and how the pediatrician stays on top of the latest medical developments.
    • Personal approach - It's important that you feel comfortable with your pediatrician's approach toward care and the ability to communicate with you. Some questions you might ask include who will see your child on each visit, how to reach the pediatrician if you have a question after hours, if your pediatrician will help with behavior issues and other non-medical concerns, what to do if your child gets sick on the weekend, and if the pediatrician feels comfortable answering the many questions you know you will have. How comfortable you feel with the pediatrician's answers is as important as the answers themselves. During your visit, also pay attention to how each member of the staff treats you and your comfort level with the office environment.
    • Office procedures - Find out how well your pediatrician's office systems work with your schedule and specific needs. Ask about extended care options, how to make an appointment, how far in advance you will need to schedule an appointment and how long you will have to wait to see the pediatrician once you arrive. If the office has more than one pediatrician or includes pediatric nurse practitioners, you might want to know how often you will see your pediatrician and when you will see others. Also ask if the office separates patients who are contagious from those who are well.
    • Additional services - Ask if the office offers any access via e-mail or Internet services to ask questions or to request appointments or prescription refills. Also check to see if the office performs on-site diagnostic services such as blood tests and X-rays.
    • Payment for services - Make certain that the office accepts your insurance plan and find out how payment and insurance billing is handled. It's also important to find out what hospitals your pediatrician is affiliated with and to make certain your health insurance plan includes those hospitals.
    Before you make a final decision, you may want to interview more than one pediatrician and compare notes.

    For further information
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    If you have additional questions or would like a referral to a Sutter-affiliated pediatrician in your neighborhood, please call our 24-hour referral hotline at (800) 4-SUTTER (478-8837), available seven days a week.

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