In today's society, pediatrics is regarded as a modern medicine. However, ancient Greeks such as Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen realized long ago that organisms needed different treatment as they grew and matured. The term "pediatrics" is derived from two Greek words meaning "child" and "doctor healer." Today's modern practitioners not only deal with the medical care of infants, children and adolescents, but many work in specialized subfields such as neonatology, gastroenterology, infectious disease and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, just to name a few.

Choosing a pediatrician that best meets the needs of your busy family is one of the most important decisions that parents must make. There are many factors to consider when selecting a pediatrician who suits your family. Here are 12 critical questions to consider when choosing a pediatrician.

  1. Question #1: What medical school did the pediatrician attend? You will also want to ask where his or her postgraduate and residency was done. For extra peace of mind, you can even look up the doctor's license to see if he or she has ever received any sanctions.

  2. Question #2: Does the pediatrician have any subspecialties? There are over 20 areas in which pediatricians specialize these days, ranging from cardiology, dermatology and neurology to psychiatry, social pediatrics and adolescent medicine. Finding that "special" fit for your particular family may be well worth the search, especially if you have a child with special needs.

  3. Question #3: At which hospitals does the pediatrician have privileges? If it ever becomes necessary for your child to enter a hospital you will want to learn ahead of time where he or she will be admitted.

  4. Question #4: Does the pediatrician use Hospitalist providers? Also, make certain he or she will coordinate care if varying specialists are needed.

  5. Question #5: Is the pediatrician in a group practice? If so, you will want to find out who covers for the physician when he or she is out of town or unavailable.

  6. Question #6: Where is the pediatrician's office located? Are the office hours convenient for your own schedule? Search to see if the office is easily accessible by car, bus or Metro, and if they offer evening or weekend hours.

  7. Question #7: What is the pediatrician's policy on receiving and returning phone calls or electronic correspondences? Look into whether anyone else in the office is qualified to answer clinical Questions.

  8. Question #8: What insurance plans does the pediatrician accept? Question what fees you will be responsible for when visiting the doctor and what the office's policy is regarding the processing of insurance forms.

  9. Question #9: How long has the pediatrician been in practice? Network with trusted friends and family for recommendations. Check out this month's "Mom Approved Docs" (on page 53) to see which physicians other parents in the DMV favor.

  10. Question #10: How many patients does the pediatrician currently manage? You will want to inquire about the average wait time in the office. See if the pediatrician uses any mid-level providers, e.g. nurse practitioners or physician assistants who can also assist with your needs. You do not want to sit in an office for hours with a sick child, especially if you are a working parent.

  11. Question #11: How are you and your family treated by the pediatrician and the office staff? Make a visit to see if the physician and the staff are considerate, attentive and compassionate. You don't want to feel rushed in the office. You want a physician who genuinely cares about your child and does not sit there with his or her back to you, asking questions and inputting data into the computer.

  12. Question #12: Does the doctor communicate clearly when explaining illnesses and treatments? A physician who answers all your questions in a timely, coherent and easy-to-understand manner will help to ease the jitters both you and your child are feeling.

Pediatric Websites to Guide Parents: