Choosing a Paediatrician

“in the Cayman Islands”

Choosing a paediatrician (pediatrician – no different, only the spelling between UK and USA) is much like choosing a family doctor in that you would generally want to maintain that relationship throughout your child’s childhood. It’s obviously not a decision taken lightly and many parents find it one of the more stressful ones they make. Consequently, we hope this small guide will take some of the stress out of the decision and provide some useful considerations.

Some guidance by Dr Sara Watkin, Paediatrician & Neonatologist

If you find this page interesting, why not share it…

Key Messages

Early is Important

Babies can be born very preterm and it is better to be ready, with the right support

Meet the Paediatricians

There is no better way to choose than to meet the various paediatricians and ask questions

Team Matters

Consider whether you are happy with a lone paediatrician or would prefer a team

Most Important Advice – Meet Them!

It’s difficult to choose a relationship on paper or screen, so go meet the paediatricians. You’ll get far more of a feel for which one is right for you and your child when you are face-to-face. You’ll want to ask them a series of questions to be a bit more objective than ‘I like them’ but liking them is important too.

You should probably ask other Mums and Dads too but when doing so, remember that they are different people with different requirements e.g. first versus subsequent births, prior complications etc. However, it’s an excellent way of finding out things like:

  • How accessible where they?
  • Did you feel reassured by their care and advice?
  • Did they get on well with the children (which is more helpful if asking someone with similar aged children)?

 

About Paediatrics and Neonatal (Newborn) Medicine

PERIODS OF CARE

Paediatrics can be split into 4 distinct periods and your requirements may be different in each:

  • Newborn (neonatal), including preterm
  • 1st Year of Life
  • Early Childhood
  • Adolescence

 

NEWBORN

In the UK, the majority of care of newborns and almost all preterms is provided by a doctor called a Neonatologist. Whereas the input around birth in most uncomplicated deliveries is comparatively low, should an infant be born prematurely or with congenital (present at birth) problems, there is a need for urgent, expert care. The more preterm a baby is, the greater the impact of getting care right from the start.

Grand Cayman is a small island in medical terms. So, whereas you might find yourself in the UK with neonatologists around birth and then paediatricians after that, here the care tends to be provided by paediatricians. At the moment, the only dual qualified paediatrician-neonatologists with full admitting rights to George Town Hospital and CTMH Doctors Hospital are based at our practice. For instance, I, Dr Sara Watkin, newborn care lead at the practice, gained my GMC certification in paediatrics and trained as a neonatlogist in a variety of tertiary (top) level neonatal units. I moved here from London, where I was Chief of Service at University College London Hospitals – a big teaching hospital. That’s not a reason necessarily to choose me as a PAEDIATRICIAN but it does mean you will almost certainly have me if your baby is born significantly preterm or with complications. I am supported by two colleagues at our practice, both of whom have tertiary neonatal training, and we are all grateful to have a good set of neonatal nurses at our excellent neonatal unit in George Town.

Besides the more complicated care, it is worth thinking about your use of a paediatrician around birth:

  • Normal vaginal deliveries at or around term generally don’t require a paediatrician but many parents find having one reassuring – it’s very much a personal choice
  • Caesarean sections in Cayman require a paediatrician in case there are complications
  • Multiple births are often delivered early and require a paediatrician
  • Shortly after birth, baby checks need to be undertaken by a paediatrician, so you’ll want to already know who you are going to use

Considering the above, along with whether this is your first baby, or whether you have had complications in the past, you need to ask yourself and the paediatricians these sorts of questions:

  • What level of qualification suits my needs or situation best?
  • Does the paediatrician have or indeed need to have (or not) admitting rights for neonatal care?
  • Does the paediatrician have up-to-date resuscitaion skills and newborn life support training?

Given that this is a choice being made before birth, it is definitely worth visiting the paediatricians until you find one you are comfortable with and confident in.

An additional consideration is whether your paediatrician is part of a team or practises alone. Why is this important?

  • Even doctors need holidays or face sickness
  • Additional support is sometimes necessary – extra hands

You can meet the Newborn Paediatric Team at a free antenatal session – Arrange a Meeting

 

 

1ST YEAR OF LIFE

This is a busy period in your new baby’s life. There are things to organise, such as immunisations, and many milestones to monitor. This year is very much about ensuring your baby thrives by getting off to a great start. It’s also a scary time for many parents and especially first time ones. Everything is new and many things are firsts. You’ll read lots of stuff about when this or that is supposed to happen and you’ll worry when your child is different (they are all unique). You’ll spend a fair bit of time with your paediatrician and that is perfectly normal. So, what are the things you might be there for:

  • Immunisation and vaccinations
  • Advice around breastfeeding and then nutrition generally
  • Growth advice and concerns
  • Developmental follow up and milestones
  • Skin, spots, rashes and other blemishes
  • Fevers, viruses etc

You’ll find most paediatricians in Cayman are more than capable of handling any and all of the above. Different parents have different attitudes to the depth of experience they are looking for and it is influenced heavily by whether you have had an uncomplicated previous delivery (which tends to make you far more relaxed about the next one).

For instance, in the UK I ran a feeding and growth clinic weekly, both for our neonatal unit graduates and with referrals from GPs (family doctors). Here in Cayman, parents usually refer directly to a paediatrician without going through a GP (something us Brits take time to get used to). Equally, I ran developmental follow up in the UK but this was predominantly for ex-preterm infants as normal, routine checks and follows were conducted by health visitors and GPs. However, here in Cayman, most follow up for babies and children is conducted by the paediatrician, and myself and both of my colleagues are passionate about helping babies thrive. At our clinic, you can pop in at any time to have your baby weighed (which we encourage) and its growth chart plotted. It’s a great way to pick up issues early and we do not charge for this service.

I think perhaps one of the most important considerations in the first year of life is access, when you need it. I frequently get calls in the evenings, during the night, at weekends etc when parents have concerns. Regardless of how minor something may turn out to be in medical terms, its not minor in the mind of a new parent and so you want to find a paediatrician who never makes you feel you shouldn’t have called. All of our paediatricians share their mobile numbers with patients and there is always someone reachable for advice.

Good questions to ask at this stage are:

  • What are the attitudes towards and arrangements for out-of-hours contact?
  • Would I feel comfortable discussing things like breast feeding?
  • What are their skills, experience and training in things like developmental follow up?
  • Do they feel supportive towards both my emotional e.g. worried about a rash, and practical needs?
  • Are they knowledgeable about immunisation schedules and vaccination?

 

EARLY CHILDHOOD

Life becomes slightly easier as time goes on. It’s not that younger children don’t see a paediatrician but you’ll spend a great deal less time as time goes on. They may still have follow up needs and of course they still get quite a wide range of things, some of which don’t emerge until early childhood. The majority of children spend the majority of their time charging around being healthy. This, of course can also be causative of accidents and emergencies in its own right and fortunately in Cayman we have an excellent Emergency Department, who liaise early and urgently with me if they have concerns (I, and my colleagues, have full admitting rights to the paediatric wards at George Town Hospital too and frequently admit children with urgent care needs or for observation).

Some children, of course, have ongoing or emerging complex needs, or conditions that become apparent in early or mid childhood. Two examples of these which are quite prevalent in Cayman are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. It’s tough (if not impossible) to pick these up in babies and toddlers but it’s important to pick them up as early as possible because early intervention makes a huge difference. These can be really scary for parents. This emphasises the importance of:

  • Well-child checks (which most insurance covers annually – ask and we can check)
  • Ongoing relationship with your paediatrician (so they can spot trends or changes)
  • Getting good advice and support from your paediatrician e.g. about things to watch out for
  • Training and expertise in developmental follow up, especially for children with early problems

Those trained in neonatal medicine, as well as paediatrics tend to be quite good at spotting emergent problems because our ex-preterm infants tend to have a higher incidence of many things than the general population of children. So, what one paediatrician might see once in a blue moon, those following neonates would tend to see more frequently and be better used to spotting the signs. A great example of this is with asthma, which has a much higher prevalence in preterm babies who have had earlier breathing problems.

Good questions to ask at this stage are:

  • What are the qualifications and experience of the various paediatricians?
  • Do they ahve appropriate admitting rights should there be an emergency (or access to someone who does)?
  • If necessary, what are their qualifications and experience in more complex diseases?
  • Are they accessible when I need them?
  • Do they strive to offer appointments that fit around school, where possible?

 

ADOLESCENCE

The emphasis now switches again, as many medical complications have already emerged earlier in childhood but behavioural challenges are now becoming more common. The challenge for parents is separating out a sign of genuine behavioural issues that could be a signal for something else from the typical behavioural foibles of the average modern-day teenager. Handling the children themselves becomes an important consideration because they are now asserting their own wishes and opinions, not to mention a different view of authority. You’ll want a paediatrician who is comfortable handling teenagers and in a manner that they themselves respond well to. Teenagers tend to follow the advice of those they are comfortable with and discard it from those they aren’t.

Psychological and sometimes psychiatric problems can become apparent in older children as they face the challenges of school and the world at large. These require particular sensitivity. Sometimes parents have to get used to allowing their older children to have private time with their paediatrician i.e. no mum and dad, so they can share things that they might not be comfortable sharing more widely.

Issues associated with maturing sexually become more prevalent and the average teenager feels deeply uncomfortable having mum or dad listening in. The important consideration though is whether they feel confident enough in sharing something that might need dealing with. These can be challenging times for teenagers and parents alike. I know from having raised 4 children, 3 of which are now ‘out there’ making their mark on life and one at University, that some of a parent’s most difficult times occur just when you are getting ready for a parental rest!

Good questions to ask at this stage are:

  • Is this a paediatrician that seems ‘in touch’ with teenager issues?
  • Are they someone a teenager could relate to and talk to?
  • Is this someone I feel confident in allowing my child to consult without me being present?
  • Would my child follow this person’s advice?

 

Other Possible Questions

 

ABOUT THE DOCTOR AND THEIR CARE

  • How long have you been in practice?
  • What is your childcare philosophy?
  • Do you have children, of what gender(s)?
  • Are you part of a group practice? (holiday cover, out-of-hours etc)
  • How long does a typical consultation last?
  • What are the normal office or clinic hours?
  • How are emergencies handled?
  • Do you take walk-ins?
  • Do you make house calls e.g. over the weekend?

 

ABOUT THE CLINIC AND WAITING

  • Is the waiting area clean, and does it have clean toys and books?
  • Is there a separate waiting area for children?
  • Is the staff friendly and helpful?
  • Do other patients seem to be waiting for a long time?
  • Is there dedicated breastfeeding space?

 

ABOUT YOUR COVER & REFERRALS

  • Does the practice accept your insurance?
  • Does it accept a variety of plans in case your coverage changes?
  • Is a payment plan possible if you are not covered?
  • Am I paying a standard rate or a premium one?
  • How does co-pay work here?
  • What hospital affiliations and admitting rights does the team have?
  • Does your insurance cover services there too?
  • What other specialists are on staff or where is other specialist advice obtained?

Arrange an Antenatal Appointment to Meet the Newborn Team

8 + 5 =

Clinic Services at a Glance

We provide a comprehensive range of women's, children's and family services. Please find details below.

Obstetric Services

We provide comprehensive woman-centred obstetric care, with patient safety and shared decision making foremost.

  • Pre-conception advice
  • Antenatal care
  • Care in labour
  • Normal vaginal, instrumental and caesarean births
  • Postnatal care

High Risk Pregnancies

We are the only practice that combines tertiary obstetrics, fetal medicine & neonatal care in a multi-specialty team:

  • Enhanced assessment, monitoring & management
  • Team-based approach
  • Fully tertiary team
  • Wide range of higher risk conditions
  • Health conditions, pregnancy conditions & life decisions

Fertility Services

We provide a full holistic fertility assessment and advice service including ovulation induction services.

  • Investigation of both partners
  • Gynaecological scans
  • Tubal patency assessment
  • Advanced laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery
  • Ovulation induction

Gynaecology Services

Comprehensive, woman-centred, gynaecology, including screening, diagnostic and treatment services for the breadth of benign conditions.

  • Menstrual and hormone disorders
  • Pelvic pain, ovarian cysts and fibroids
  • Menopause, prolapse and incontinence
  • Advanced laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery
  • Onward referral for suspicious conditions

Paediatric & Adolescent Gynaecology

We provide a sensitive, sympathetic approach to girls and teenagers with a range of gynaecological problems.

  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Pelvic pain and painful periods
  • Delayed or early puberty
  • Vulval problems
  • Contraceptive advice

Newborn (Neonatal) Care

We are the only practice with full hospital admitting rights for neonatal care delivered by tertiary trained neonatal (newborn) specialists.

  • Attending Deliveries
  • Baby Checks & Immunisations
  • Newborn Care
  • Preterm & Complex Care
  • 1st Year Paediatric Care

Paediatric Health & Care

We provide a truly comprehensive set of paediatric care services backed up by full admitting rights to George Town Hospital.

  • Developmental Follow Up
  • Well Child Checks
  • Full Paediatric Care from 0-18 years
  • School Medicals
  • Complex Paediatric Care & Referrals

Free Screening Checks

Comprehensive and swift service that values and respects your time, delivering on time, without drama.

  • Book Online, with Instant Confirmation
  • High Quality Facilities
  • Rapid Reporting
  • Blood Pressure Screening

Family Health & Medicine

Our Family Health services are modern, supportive, non-judgmental, delivered with compassion.

  • Family Doctor/GP Services
  • Well-person Checks
  • Health & Lifestyle Support
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Acute & Chronic Illness

Dermatology Services

Providing a responsive, patient-focused, comprehensive dermatology service for both adults and paediatric patients in modern facilities.

  • Inflammatory Skin Conditions
  • Infections, Bites & Bumps
  • Skin Cancer Screening & Diagnosis
  • Biopsies & Procedures
  • Vulval Dermatology

News, Views & Pertinent Pieces

If you found this page interesting, why not share it…