Parents looking for pediatricians for their children might want to consider one who wears a Bugs Bunny tie.
Yes, pediatricians still must have talent and good academic credentials, but they should also know how to put children at ease -- and that might be with a giggle.
Dr. Clifford Nerwen, a pediatrician and medical director of the outpatient clinic at Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, is a proud member of the Bugs-Bunny-tie-wearing crowd.
Before selecting a pediatrician, parents should consider a visit to the office, which can indicate whether the doctor is child-friendly, Nerwen says.
"Are there toys, are there books in the waiting room?" Nerwen asks. "Is the staff that meets me pleasant in understanding a child is ill and stressed?"
Nerwen also says pediatricians should speak to children at their eye level rather than looming above them. And he urges parents to ask pediatricians questions about "things that make them nervous" -- the possible side effects of vaccines, for example. A translating service is helpful for patients who don't speak English, Nerwen adds.
Dr. Marion Rose, a pediatric cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, agrees that toys, books and computers all make a visit to the pediatrician less stressful.
Rose works at Good Samaritan's Center for Pediatric Specialty Care in Babylon. She and Nerwen both suggest that parents check whether pediatricians have been board-certified in their specialties.
"You want to make sure that the physicians themselves have attained as much education as possible," Rose says.
For example, parents can consult aap.org -- the Web site of the American Academy of Pediatrics -- to see if the AAP has certified a pediatrician they're considering. The AAP site has other helpful information about pediatricians and medical care.
Dr. David Tayloe, AAP president-elect, has a pediatric practice in Goldsboro, N.C. He stresses the importance of continuing education.
"The good pediatrician is the one who seriously keeps up," Tayloe says. He suggests parents ask pediatricians whether they have gone through the yearly continuing medical education recommended by AAP.
Rose, at Good Samaritan, says good pediatricians try to engage children as much as possible -- talking to them during an exam and later explaining things to the parents.
"The children are my patients -- I ask the questions of the children," Rose says. "I ask the child what does it feel like, can you point to your chest and tell me where it's hurting?"
Rose also shows children their electrocardiograms and heartbeats on paper in an effort to engage them. She says: "I try to make it kind of fun and informative."