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Choosing A Doctor

Question of the Week


Updated November 14, 2004

Q. What are the benefits of seeing a Pediatrician instead of a General Practitioner or 'family' doctor? Ginger, Springboro, OH

A. When choosing a doctor to take care of your child, it is more important to find a doctor that you trust and like, instead of going to them simply because they are a Pediatrician or a GP.

In general, the big benefit of choosing a Family Practioner is that they are able to take care of your whole family. So if both you and your child are sick, you can go to the doctor together.

A Family Practioner may also be more in tune to what is going on in your family and how it is affecting your child's health. This may help, for example, if your child begins having a lot of tantrums or having problems at school and he knows that you have been having health problems, then he may link the two things together. A good Pediatrician would ask about and hopefully also recognize that link though.

And according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 'family medicine integrates care for patients of both genders across the full spectrum of ages within the context of community and advocates for the patient in an increasingly complex health care system.'

The benefit of seeing a Pediatrician is that you are choosing a doctor whose training was focused on taking care of children. While both types of doctors must complete a three year residency program after medical school, for a Pediatrician, those three years are dedicated to the care of children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 'in choosing a pediatrician, you can know that your child is being treated by an expert in children's health.'

A Family Practice doctor also learns to take care of adults and pregnant women during their training and may have just six months of Pediatric training. And since kids aren't just small adults, the Family Practice doctor has to keep up with latest advances in Pediatric and Adult Medicine.

Still, your choice should come down to the individual doctor and not what sort of residency program they went to. I'm sure that everyone has a story or an example of both good and bad Pediatricians and Family Practice doctors.

I would recommend that if you choose a Family Practice doctor to take care of your children, then find one that sees a lot of kids. If you see one that only takes care of 1 or 2 Pediatric patients a day, then they may not have very much experience taking care of children. And make sure that there is always a doctor available afterhours that takes care of children. If they share call with an Internal Medicine doctor, then they may not take care of Pediatric patients when your own doctor is not available.

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