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How to Change Pediatricians

Laura Moss

When Jennifer Aaronson, 41, a magazine editor and mom to two in Manhattan, was pregnant with her first child, she did what every baby book tells you to do: she interviewed doctors and found one she thought was a good fit. “We knew we were having a boy, and my husband wanted a male pediatrician, so we found this guy who was the head of whatever, had an impressive resume and seemed totally fine in the interview.” But it wasn’t long before Aaronson left her doctor visits feeling the doctor was “brushing us off like ‘you silly first-time parents.’” 

When Aaronson’s son Gio was just nine months old and had a constant cough, she knew something was wrong. She brought him in before a trip away from home, and her doctor said, “He’s fine, it’s just a cough.” On the trip Gio ended up in the ER and was sent home with a diagnosis of pneumonia. When they got back, Aaronson showed her pediatrician the X-rays and got the brush off again. “He said, ‘I don’t think it’s pneumonia.’” Then it happened again. Aaronson took her sick son in, was told she was overreacting and went home, only to end up in the ER days later with a diagnosis of pneumonia. And that was it: “He kept brushing us off as first-time parents, but two different emergency rooms told us he had pneumonia, so we said, enough with that.” Aaronson switched pediatricians and never looked back. 

For Aaronson, it wasn’t so much that her doctor missed pneumonia two times. After all, she says, maybe it wasn’t pneumonia when he saw it. For her, the problem was feeling belittled. Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital who writes the Seattle Mama Doc Blog, agrees. “You want to feel comfortable asking your pediatrician questions, and you want to trust the answers,” says Dr. Swanson. If you don’t, it’s time to find a new doc. 

“It’s a really normal and common thing to switch a doctor,” says Dr. Swanson. Whenever your instinct is telling you to look for someone else, you should trust your gut. Physicians are there to provide a service to you. If you’re not getting the service you think you need, you should go elsewhere.”