Even the worst doctors can have fancy diplomas and impressive credentials, so don’t base your choice on these alone. “A doctor could be the brightest person from the lamest school, or the lamest person from the most difficult school. I know many excellent physicians who graduated from schools I’ve never heard of,” says Schultz.
Still, certain credentials are must-haves. Proceed with caution if your doctor doesn’t have them.
Credentials to look for
First, all doctors are required to meet state licensure requirements, which vary somewhat from state to state.
Most physicians are board certified. This isn’t a guarantee of competence, but it is an important seal of approval. Unless a doctor is fresh out of medical school and hasn’t taken board exams yet, not being board certified is a warning sign that something’s not right.
Consider hospital affiliation
Make sure you know which hospital your doctor is affiliated with. You’ll want a hospital that’s conveniently located and has a good reputation, since that’s where you’ll go to have your baby or if you or a family member needs to be hospitalized.
Avoid doctors who have no hospital affiliation or are affiliated with a hospital that has bad ratings. (You can research the hospital by checking online sources and asking friends and acquaintances.)
If you’ll be delivering your baby at the hospital, ask moms you know about their experience with the labor and delivery nurses. As ob-gyn Barth points out, “When you have your baby, the labor and delivery nurses will be with you far more than the doctor will. I come by and see how things are going every hour or so, but the nurses are there the entire time, and they have a lot to do with the quality of your experience.”
A group or solo practice?
Another thing to consider is whether your doctor or your child’s doctor is part of a group. Schultz says that being part of a group practice is helpful for doctors and patients alike. “We talk about cases, ask questions, puzzle things through together,” she says of herself and her colleagues. “Our patients get the benefit of our collective experience and knowledge.” For patients, a group practice also offers more flexibility, for instance if you need to see a doctor on your regular doctor’s day off.
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