Parents worry about their kids’ health and well-being from the day they enter the delivery room until the day they leave for their college dorm room — and beyond. So, it’s no wonder they put so much care, concern, and preparation into choosing the right pediatrician.
Staten Island folks said they began researching, interviewing, and getting recommendations for doctors while they were still expecting — and suggest fellow parents do everything from arranging office visits to asking for referrals from family and friends. Those steps become even more important for new parents, like Alexandra and Gerard Tingos, who need a little extra attention, guidance, and hand-holding.
“We knew being first time parents that if we had any questions we would be able to call and ask,” about everything from illnesses to required shots, Mrs. Tingos said. She and her husband began searching for a pediatrician when she was seven months pregnant — and made the selection about a month ahead of the early 2019 arrival their newborn daughter, Sophia.
“We wanted to feel reassured knowing our questions would be answered and our child was a priority,” she added.
The Tingos relied on recommendations from their obstetricians’ office and other parents in their social circle, and made sure the practice accepted their medical insurance. Meanwhile, location, office hours, and appointment availability topped the list of important criteria for many Staten Island parents who juggle busy lifestyles, which includes caring for multiple children.
Although she used the same pediatric practice for her first three children, Kaitlynn Murante of New Brighton decided it was time for a change about three years ago because she was unhappy with the patient care her children had been receiving.
“We were noticing less office hours and it was hard to get to see her,” Mrs. Murante, mom to Andrew, 15; daughters, Madison, 7 and Mia, 4; and newborn Michael, said. “We relied a lot on what other parents had to say and are very happy with our decision,” Mrs. Murante said.
Similarly, Nicole Panepinto of Eltingville said high patient care and a modern office with flexible hours were among her top criteria. Like others, she asked for referrals from her obstetrician, family and friends — and set up interviews while she was still pregnant ahead of the birth of her first child, Dominic, now 10.
“I sat with the doctors prior to becoming a patient of the practice to make sure it was the correct fit for my family,” Mrs. Panepinto said.
The face to face interaction with the doctors allowed her to easily make her decision and she remained content with the practice when her other children, Lucas, 8, Andrew, 6, and Olivia, 2, came along.
“I knew right away the office was so understanding and really made me feel like they valued me and all my concerns,” she explained.
On the other hand, the interview process also helps parents eliminate potential choices as well.
“I went to an office for a pre-visit interview and knew it wasn’t a fit because the doctor lectured me for wanting to meet with them prior to becoming a patient,” she said.
Ultimately, Mrs. Panepinto recommends parents choose a practice whose doctors and staff are easy to talk to, approachable, and good at listening to parents’ concerns — especially new parents.
Location is very important, according to Mrs. Murante. “Make sure you can schedule sick and well visits when it is convenient for you and your family,” Mrs. Murante said. “Over the years you will spend a lot of time at the pediatrician and you don’t want to have to drive far.”
She ultimately chose a pediatrician located in close proximity to her home that had three doctors in the practice, flexible office hours that fit her family’s schedule, and made her family a priority.
While one downside can be long office waits, Mrs. Panepinto said that doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. “I have learned when to try and not make appointments to avoid longer wait times,” she advised. Flexible hours, as well as an office with up to date medical technology were also important concerns, she said. “I wanted an office that gave the patient individual care — not just text book” diagnoses, she explained, adding parents should be able to put their full trust in their doctor.
“We have dealt with various issues and the doctors never have let me down,” Mrs. Panepinto said. “They always put my children first and put quality care as their goal.”
Overall, local parents advise fellow moms and dads to be open and honest about what level of care they want and expect — and not to settle for less.
“As a new mother, it was extremely important to feel comfortable with the pediatrician,” Mrs. Tingos said.“I wanted to make sure that when I called to ask certain questions, or possibly need a quick appointment, we were a concern and taken care of.”
She said parents — especially new parents — should never feel awkward about asking questions. “You always want to feel comfortable and want to feel that your child or children feel comfortable,” she added.
Mrs. Panepinto agreed that parents should always voice their opinions, and not be afraid to call the office — no matter the time.
Parents also need to recognize when to make changes, according to Mrs. Murante. “If you realize the level of care that you demand isn’t there, then find a new doctor,” she recommended. “It is important to have a pediatrician that will treat your children as if they are their own.”
By Christine Albano