Caring For Our Kids

Choosing a pediatrician

Dr. Noah Simons is a local pediatrician based in Presidio Heights

Whether you are having a baby or have just moved to the City, finding a doctor for your child’s health care needs can be a bit daunting. You will spend a lot of time in the first year of your child’s life with your pediatrician, who will then chart your child’s growth and development in most cases through adolescence. When deciding who that person will be, think about how you chose your own doctor and what was important to you. I think you will find the same criteria will apply. For our family, I was looking for a few key things, with the most important elements being trust and a good rapport. I wanted someone who was going to take my concerns seriously and who really understood our family. Here are a few steps for making that decision a little easier:

Know what you want. This is completely personal and will vary from family to family, but spending some time thinking about what is important to you will help you in the decision process. Some things to consider include: (1) Office hours (are there early morning or evening appointment times?); (2) Response time to questions or concerns (how long does it typically take for a call back, and is the doctor available by e-mail or text?); (3) Is it a solo or group practice (do you see different doctors at every appointment, or is there only one doctor available?); and (4) Does the doctor share your philosophy when it comes to vaccines, antibiotics, or homeopathic alternatives?

Ask for referrals. One of your best resources and a good place to start is trusted family and friends. Find out whom their children see and what they like or don’t like about their pediatrician. If you are new to the area or don’t have friends with children yet, ask parents in your mother’s group, at the park, or use an online resource like the digest from Golden Gate Mother’s Group to post the question. Your ob/gyn doctor might also be a great resource. He or she sees many pediatricians around the hospital and knows your personality so may be able to offer some suggestions for a good fit.

Interview potentials. This could be the most important step, because you will get a good feel for the situation after talking to the doctor and visiting the office. When considering location of the office, keep in mind you will want it to be convenient, easily accessible for a stroller, and with available parking.

The second consideration is cleanliness. Doctor’s offices can be a haven for germs, so be on the lookout for lots of hand sanitizer and clean, well-kept toys and books, and maybe even a separate sick entrance. This is something our pediatrician has that I greatly appreciate. Another element to observe is the waiting room — is it crowded? Do people seem to be waiting a long time?

This is also a good time to observe the staff’s demeanor. Are they friendly and helpful or rushed and disinterested? When meeting with the doctor, inquire about his or her background and ask questions about how he or she would handle important parenting issues. This is a time to trust your instincts about whether this person is a good fit for your family’s needs.

With three children between wellness appointments, sick calls, and the random ailment, I see our pediatrician a lot throughout the year. I am grateful for the trust, responsiveness, and attention shown to our family. Luckily, we haven’t had any major illness or issues, but there have been some concerns along the way, and having a good relationship with your pediatrician is imperative for your child’s health and your well-being.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. E-mail: liz@marinatimes.com

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