By Professor Frank Oberklaid and Dr Leah Kaminsky, excerpt from 'Your Child's Health'
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Our checklist can help you decide whether a doctor is right for your child. You can even use it if you’re trying to decide whether to take your child to a doctor or clinic that you’ve been using for many years.
Newborn crying at medical check-up
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Finding a doctor

If you’ve just moved into a new area and need to find a new doctor, you could visit the local hospital for information, or ask friends, neighbours, workmates or your local child and family health or community nurse.

Choosing the right doctor

It’s OK to make an appointment with the doctor just to ask questions.

Feel free to go through the list below. If the doctor meets all your needs but you still don’t feel quite right about this doctor, look for someone else. You need to feel comfortable with your child’s doctor.

When choosing a doctor, ask yourself:

  • Is the clinic easy to get to? Can I walk there or take public transport? Is there enough parking?
  • Is the clinic friendly? Does the receptionist welcome children? Is the waiting room OK? Is there a bright atmosphere, toys and children’s books, and carpet so that young children can play on the floor? Is there space to park a pusher?
  • Is the doctor trained in paediatrics? It’s OK to ask doctors how much training and experience they have had with children.
  • Is the doctor friendly? Do you and your child feel welcome? Look for a doctor who is easy to talk to, who pays attention to your worries and doesn’t rush you. Check whether the doctor treats your child with respect and sensitivity. Does the doctor take the time and trouble to talk or play with your child? Explain things if your child is old enough? Treat your child with special care if your child is unwell or anxious?
  • Are the office hours convenient? Is there an after-hours service? What arrangements are there for emergencies at nights and weekends? Does the doctor do house calls? Is there a locum who can access your child’s records, or does the clinic use a locum service?
  • How quickly can you get an appointment? What about in an emergency? Is the doctor generally on time? When is it busiest and quietest?
  • What does the doctor charge? Does the clinic bulk bill? Will they bill you and let you pay later?

Informed consent

If your child needs any significant procedures, like a surgical operation, you’ll be asked to give your informed consent. It’s important that you fully understand the risks as well as the benefits of a particular procedure.

Your doctor needs to be able to give you balanced and current information, using language that you can understand, so that you know exactly what it is you are saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to. If you feel that the information isn’t clear, or you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to explain it to you again. If you still don’t feel satisfied, find another doctor.

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