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How to find the right pediatric neurologist

Your child’s brain and nervous system play an essential role in how they interact with the world around them. So when something goes awry in these wondrous and complex systems, you want to make sure your child is in the best hands.

But where do you start? Neurosciences includes many subspecialties, and a neurologist who specializes in treating seizures may not be not the best fit for your child if your main concern is a developmental delay. If you’re not sure, start with a general neurologist who can address a variety of concerns and refer you to other subspecialists if needed.

The following questions can also help guide your search for the right provider:

Do you know anyone who can recommend a neurologist?

Your child’s pediatrician is your best resource and will likely have great insights on local specialists. It can also be helpful to check with any family or friends who have experience with pediatric neurologists. It’s often reassuring when you know that someone you trust has already had a good experience with that doctor.

What can you find online?

The internet has made it easier than ever to do your homework on providers. Some parents prefer to review a neurologist’s credentials, research and online patient reviews before making a decision. On CHW.org, we have all of this information and more at your fingertips.

How often do they treat patients like your child?

Patient volume matters. Medicine is a skill, and the more you do it, the better you get. In general, programs with higher patient volumes tend to have better outcomes. Our Neurosciences Clinics see more than 10,000 patient visits per year and more than 900 patients are admitted annually to our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU). Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin openly shares our data on patient volume and outcomes on our website, but it’s also something you can ask about when you meet with your child’s provider.

How does the hospital rank?

While rankings aren’t the end-all, be-all of quality, they do provide a helpful guide for patients. The Neurosciences Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is ranked as one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, our imaging program has been designated a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, making it the third pediatric hospital in the United States to earn the distinction. Lastly, our Epilepsy Center is ranked by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) as a Level 4 center, making it the only such pediatric center in Wisconsin. This designation means parents can be confident we provide the highest level of care for children living with epilepsy.

Does the program offer comprehensive services at a convenient location?

The No. 1 question parents ask me: “Can we get that test done here?” The second thing they ask: “Can we get it done today?” We know it can be difficult to juggle medical appointments around parents’ work schedules and other family demands, and it’s much easier if your child’s neurologist is located at a one-stop shop. At Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, we offer an extensive array of neurological testing at our hospital in Milwaukee as well as our regional clinics in Delafield, Mequon, Neenah and New Berlin. Multiple clinic locations not only make it easier to find care close to home, they can also shorten your wait time to see a neurologist. Though if your child needs to see a specialist ASAP, don’t worry — we prioritize emergency cases.

Is the program or doctor actively engaged in research?

Research is especially important in the pediatric neurology field, where we sometimes treat rare conditions that researchers are still trying to understand and find the best treatments for. At Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, our partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin means that many of our providers are active in academic research, and our patients have access to cutting-edge treatments through clinical trials.

Do you like the doctor?

It’s a simple but important question. When you meet your child’s neurologist for the first time, you want to feel like you click and that the doctor understands and truly listens to your concerns. If he or she doesn’t feel like the right fit, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion from another neurologist.

Do you have copies of any previous MRIs or CT scans?

If you’re seeking a second opinion, bring any previous testing results to your appointment. That can save everyone time and the unnecessary expense of repeating tests.