This is one of the biggest decisions you make before your baby is born. Every parent wonders which pediatrician is the right one for their child. Before you start your search, take a few minutes to learn exactly what this kind of doctor does. It will help you make a better choice and know what to expect when your baby arrives. Pediatricians are doctors who manage the health of your child, including physical, behavior, and mental health issues. They're trained to diagnose and treat childhood illnesses, from minor health problems to serious diseases.
What Does a Pediatrician Do?
A pediatrician is a doctor who provides medical care to children from birth to early adulthood. Pediatricians diagnose and treat medical conditions and also provide preventative care. They focus on improving overall health, reducing childhood mortality, controlling the spread of infectious diseases, and promoting healthy lifestyles in general. Primary care pediatricians often work with other health care providers to manage their patients' care. They help to prevent, detect, and manage the following:
- Behavioral problems (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], attention-deficit disorder [ADD])
- Developmental problems (learning disabilities)
- Emotional problems (stress, social issues)
- Physical conditions (acute and chronic illnesses, genetic disorders, injuries)
- Mental disorders (anxiety, depression)
Pediatricians provide routine care, perform physical examinations, track their patient's growth and development, obtain patient and family medical histories, explain medical procedures, order diagnostic tests, and administer treatments. They provide parents and caregivers with important information and recommendations about health and safety during childhood. Pediatricians often work in private or group practices, in clinics or hospitals, or in health care organizations.
Education and Training Requirements
Because pediatricians are medical doctors, they must obtain a four-year undergraduate degree, and then obtain a four year doctorate degree in medicine (M.D. or D.O.). After successfully completing medical school, prospective physicians can apply for pediatric residency programs. Once matched with a pediatric residency, the newly minted M.D. or D.O. begins the three-year process of completing medical residency training in pediatrics. Once the necessary tests and licenses, the physician may then practice pediatrics in the U.S. It is strongly recommended that the physician also become board certified in pediatrics as well, as board certification is required by most employers and hospitals. Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and training.
Why Do You Need a Pediatrician?
One more option to keep in mind: Family medicine doctors are also an option for your child. They look after the health of your whole family -- kids and grown-ups alike. It's a personal choice whether you use one or a pediatrician.
Some reasons to go with a pediatrician are:
- They have special training in children's health.
- They only see children in their practice, so they have a lot of experience in recognizing and treating childhood illnesses.
- If your child was born early or has a health condition, a pediatrician may offer more specialized care.
What is the Job Outlook?
The job outlook for physicians in general is very good for the coming years. 10% growth in employment is projected for all pediatric physicians and surgeons from 2014-2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. As a pediatrician, your compensation will vary by industry, location and experience, but a median annual salary of $226,408 is reported in 2014.
For those who would like to practice a more specialized type of pediatric medicine, there are many pediatric specialty career options, such as surgery, cardiology, oncology, and many more. Often these pediatric subspecialists earn more than general pediatricians and it’s a great choice of career.