What is a Pediatrician?
A Pediatrician is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Primary Care Pediatrician, Adolescent Physician, Child Physician, Infant Care Physician, Infant Care Pediatrician, General Pediatrician, Paediatrician.
Table of Contents
- What is a Pediatrician?
- What does a Pediatrician do?
- How to become a Pediatrician
- What is the workplace of a Pediatrician like?
- What is the difference between adult and pediatric medicine?
- Can a Pediatrician treat adults?
- Does a Pediatrician require a specially trained Pediatric Nurse?
- What are some common pediatric health care issues?
- Where and in which specialties are Pediatricians most needed?
- Further Reading
- Similar Careers
Derived from the Greek words pais, meaning child, and iatros, which means doctor or healer, a pediatrician is a medical professional who specializes in providing medical care to children. Although there are surviving manuscripts devoted to pediatrics from earlier times, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that it was recognized and developed as a new medical specialty. Known for his many contributions to the field, Abraham Jacobi is considered as the father of pediatrics. He was born in Germany where he received his medical training, but later went to the United States to practice. It was there that he opened the first children's clinic in New York.
How to Become a Pediatrician
What does a Pediatrician do?
Providing physical, mental and emotional care for their patients, pediatricians are concerned with the health of infants, children and teenagers. They perform diagnostic tests to obtain information of the patient's medical condition and administer treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries. They also treat children who are suffering from minor injuries, acute and chronic health problems, and physiological and psychological growth and developmental concerns.
Pediatricians counsel and guide children and their parents or guardians concerning diet, hygiene and disease prevention. The field of pediatrics is a collaborative specialty - primary care pediatricians may refer patients to a medical specialist if they manifest symptoms of a serious medical condition, in order to efficiently address the issue. Pediatrics is a very broad field, encompassing general practice to children's oncology, hence the need for collaborative effort among medical professionals.
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How to become a Pediatrician
The training for a pediatrician takes approximately 11 years after completing high school, depending on the university and jurisdiction and the degree of specialization required, as they vary considerably across the world.
Typically, after high school, students will need four years of undergraduate courses in a college or university, majoring in biology or another science-related major. The course major need not necessarily be science-related, so long as the pre-med course requirements such as calculus, organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, chemistry and physics are completed. There is also a medical college admission test to pass along with a certain level of school grades to be attained in order to qualify and get accepted by a medical school.
Four more years will be required working towards a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. However, a few schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six rather than the customary eight years. The first two years of medical school mainly consist of classroom and laboratory learning, while the last two years involve first-hand clinical experience under the supervision and guidance of licensed professionals. After medical school, the next step would be to complete a one-year pediatric internship, which includes hands-on training and experience in baby care.
After a successful internship, students are required to take a two-year residency program to obtain further knowledge and experience in the field. Once this phase is completed, they are now ready to take the general pediatrics certification program which is necessary for obtaining a license. After getting board certified, they can commence their work as a licensed pediatrician.
Most pediatricians at this stage choose to continue their education in pediatric sub-specialties such as adolescent medicine, developmental disorders, gastroenterology, infectious disease, nephrology, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, etc.
Where are the best pediatrics schools? These schools are in the top five ranking according to PediatricsSchools.com:
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
What is the workplace of a Pediatrician like?
Pediatricians can work in a number of environments, such as hospitals, private practice offices, health maintenance organizations, community health centers, public health clinics, schools, or the military and government. They are less likely to enter solo practice and more likely to work as salaried employees of group medical practices.
In a typical setting, pediatricians enjoy a pleasant working environment as they are generally assigned to offices and examination rooms most amenable to children. Offices and rooms are equipped with children's books, toys and activities to occupy children during waiting periods and distract them when undergoing painful procedures. Working with children has its drawbacks, however. They can be unruly patients, often restless and sometimes hysterical and frightened by doctors and medical procedures. The utmost patience must be exercised when dealing with children, which is where pediatrics training is invaluable.
A common adage in the medical field is that ‘children are not simply little adults.’ In other words, there are significant differences between treating adults and children. The smaller body size and less mature internal organs of an infant or child are physiologically substantially different. These variances can present congenital deficiencies or defects and developmental issues very specific to young patients. A pediatrician’s interpretation of symptoms, diagnosis, and prescribing of medications and other treatments are all influenced by the age of the patient.
The fact that the pediatrician’s patients often cannot independently advocate or make decisions adds another aspect to pediatric practice: that of communicating with parents and family; and considering the concerns of potentially many people, not only the patient. This part of the pediatrician’s work can be particularly demanding in the face of a painful procedure or poor prognosis.
Pediatric training is composed of four years of medical school and a minimum of three years of residency in pediatrics. The discipline is a very specialized one and its practitioners are specially qualified to treat babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents up to the age of eighteen, perhaps as old as twenty-one. Unless they are trained in both pediatrics and adult medicine, it is rare for pediatricians to step outside of their specialty to treat adults.
While a pediatrician is a licensed physician who is specifically trained in pediatrics or children’s medicine, nurses receive a bachelor’s degree to become a Registered Nurse or RN. Only by doing most of their work and gaining extensive practical experience in the pediatric field do they become labeled as ‘pediatric’ nurses. This experience includes administering immunizations, keeping developmental records, and often being patients’ first point of contact before they see a pediatrician. As they gain experience in the field, pediatric nurses may choose to specialize in a particular sub-discipline, such as anesthetics, oncology, or neurology.
Among the most common issues facing pediatricians today are:
- Fetal origins of adult disease
- Smoking among youth
- Neonatal Encephalopathy – a syndrome in newborns which disturbs neurological function, causing respiratory problems, depressed reflexes, sub-normal consciousness, and potential seizures
- Early-life origins of cardiovascular disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Brain tumors in children
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Environmental Chemical Exposure
- Common childhood bacterial infections
- Nutrition and celiac disease
In both the United States and Canada and in fact worldwide, there is a shortage of pediatricians serving rural and less populated areas. Also in the U.S., while the total number of primary care doctors for children across urban areas is appropriate, there is an uneven distribution of these doctors throughout the fifty states.
As for the kinds of specialists in demand, the lists are varied. A recent study revealed that in Canada medical schools are training too many doctors in some pediatric specialties, and insufficient numbers in other areas of child health care. For example, the study showed that twice as many neurologists as needed and only half the number of required neonatologists – doctors who treat premature or ill newborns – are being trained. The Canadian Pediatric (‘Paediatric’) Society http://www.cps.ca/ and the American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.aap.org are the most reliable sources from which to obtain updated statistics regarding job opportunities in the field.
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