Choosing to switch from a pediatrician to an adult doctor is a big decision.
Visiting the pediatrician is a normal part of any child’s life. But as they age, they might not feel comfortable seeing the same doctor who treated them when they were a baby. If your child feels like they’re too old to see a pediatrician, switching to a different provider may be the answer.
“Your child’s health changes as they grow, so it’s important to find a doctor who can give them the best care for their stage of life,” says Dr. Michal Maksimak, a pediatrician at Geisinger’s Woodbine clinic.
When to switch from a pediatrician to a family doctor
So, how long can you see a pediatrician? That depends. Knowing when it’s time to move on may happen naturally.
Your child may decide on their own to stop seeing their pediatrician around age 12 or 13. Others may choose to wait longer. Or their provider’s office may give them a gentle nudge.
“We start encouraging kids to look for a new provider between 18 and 21,” says Dr. Maksimak.
If your child feels like they’re ready to move on, consider an adolescent medicine specialist. These providers typically care for kids and young adults between ages 10 and 25.
And if your child continues to see a pediatrician, their doctor may ask you to leave the room during their visit. “As children age, they need privacy to discuss things they’re dealing with,” Dr. Maksimak says. And they may not be comfortable bringing them up in front of you.
Helping your child navigate their health
Giving your child the tools they need to navigate the medical system effectively will set them up for success.
Make the process easier for your child by:
- Finding a provider that accepts your insurance
- Helping them access their own medical records in MyChart
- Teaching them how to schedule their own appointments
- Discussing any chronic medical conditions or allergies they may have
- Educating them on the names and doses of any medications they take
“If your child is moving to a new provider, we encourage them to keep track of their medical records,” says Dr. Maksimak.
Making the transition to adult medicine
Moving on from pediatrics is a gradual process. And that transition looks different for everyone. “The age to switch varies, based on your child’s comfort level and individual health needs,” Dr. Maksimak says.
If your child sees multiple specialists to manage health conditions, their provider will also discuss that part of the transition.
Once your child is ready to move into the next level of care, their provider can help build a care transition plan. This plan will help them gain independence in making medical decisions. And it will arm them with the information they need for a smooth transition.
As your child grows, start the conversation about the next steps with their pediatrician. They can help with the transition and answer any questions you or your child have along the way.