Going to a new doctor can feel like a first date — and a blind date, at that! Building trust and confidence between parents and providers is critical so that everyone can partner together to do the best for your child. But it takes time to establish that relationship. How can you quickly and easily develop trust in your child’s provider?
First, you can do a little homework by learning about qualifications. One important thing is board certification, and knowing your child’s doctor is board certified in a pediatric specialty or subspecialty can help you know that he or she has the necessary training and skills to take care of your child’s condition.
After graduating from medical school, new doctors must go through a residency training program, during which they are taking care of patients with some supervision by a fully licensed physician. Residency can last from three to seven or more years, depending on the specialty. After residency, doctors are licensed to practice and can become board certified in that specialty by passing a rigorous examination.
A doctor can be licensed but not necessarily board certified. Some physicians will pursue a fellowship — further training that usually consists of another one to four years — to subspecialize. Someone who is board certified in otolaryngology (more commonly known as ear, nose, and throat, or ENT) has completed five years of training in that specialty and can care for many people with ENT problems, including children and adults. Someone who is board certified in pediatric ENT has then done an additional year (sometimes two) of training focusing solely on children with ENT problems, and has additional expertise and skills to care for those patients. You can usually find out your doctor’s board certification by checking his or her website. (If you see the words “board eligible,” it means your doctor has done all the necessary training but has not yet taken the exam, which may only be given every two years.)
Like everyone else, doctors vary according to style. Whether it’s warm vs. reserved, humorous vs. serious, energetic vs. calm, it may not exactly fit yours. Keep in mind that you’re looking for a health care provider, not a best friend, so what’s most important — aside from clinical expertise — is a willingness and ability to communicate in a way that works for you.
You and the provider need to be able to be partners. The doctor is an expert in medicine, but you are an expert in your child.