A Pediatrician is a specially trained medical doctor who assists babies in managing physical, social and emotional challenges as early as the time they were born, until when they become teenagers. In other words, a Pediatrician helps kids to tackle emotional, physical and social differences.
This means that Pediatricians have a unique interest in children, so, if you desire to become one, you should start learning how to sing lullabies. Singing may be one of the things you would do as part of your routine with patients.
A renown Pediatrician at the University of Texas, Steven Abrams once explained that he enjoys his profession because “it is one of the few jobs where a doctor gets to hug his patients.”
You will likely get attached to these kids, mostly because you would have been in charge of their treatments even before they become aware of their environment or learn proper communication skills.
Equally, there is a good chance that you develop a good relationship with the parents of your patients since you would be giving regular updates on their child’s health. This would help them learn how to respond appropriately to the changes they notice in their children.
Duties of Pediatricians
- Treating patients: As a Pediatrician, you will be helping patients regain normal health statuses on a regular basis. Their health challenges do not necessarily have to be complex though. Sometimes, it may just be fever treatments, and other times, it could measles or chicken pox. You will be responsible for taking down complaints in notes, recommending medical tests, interpreting the results, and recommending treatment procedures to your patients
- Managing Chronic Illness: Being a Pediatrician, you will help your patients recover from diseases like diabetes. This does not mean you have to treat them directly, your tasks in this aspect may just be checking on them to ensure they are taking their medications as prescribed until they are fully cured. While helping them restore their health, you will also be responsible for informing your patients about new developments in their health status. And when there is need to bring in specialists, a pediatrician provides a recommendation.
- Monitoring patients improvements and growth: Pediatricians are present right from the birth stage of children with health challenges until they become adolescents. This is why monitoring and documenting growth is an important aspect of the field. As a Pediatrician, you need to always see potential health problems and quickly address them before they become uncontrollable. A book for taking notes should always be with you whenever you meet with your patients. Pediatricians have to jot down patients’ changes in an appearance on a scheduled basis. This can be their height, weight, body size, and so on.
- Giving health tips: Your duty as a Pediatrician goes beyond medical treatments. You equally have to recommend health tips like diet plans, good hygiene, and nutrition. Your patients will also need you to guide them on activities such as immunization, sports, feeding, and all other things that will help in improving or regulating their health statuses.
- Communicating constantly with Patients and Parents: The line of communication has to always be open among you, your patients and their parents. Although it may not always be verbal communication as babies may not be able to express themselves verbally. Yet, you need to understand other non-verbal cues that they use, know when they need to be touched, played with and fed. It is not rocket science though, spending time with your patients will help you understand how they react to certain things. More importantly, you have to constantly talk to their parents about their treatment plans, results of tests, and updates on their health statuses. Your duty as a pediatrician involves answering any questions they have concerning their children’s health and keeping them calm and stable in cases of crisis.
Some other things to communicate include training them on how to handle the health challenges of their children when you are not around, enlightening them on proper diets for their kids, and making them understand their roles in the treatment process.
Basic skills every Pediatrician should have
Like other health care professionals, a pediatrician needs skills such as:
- Critical thinking abilities
- Excellent communication skills
- Problem-solving instincts
Good knowledge of children behavioral patterns: (You need to know what children want, the things they react to, and how they want to be treated)
Multitasking abilities: This is quite crucial due to the fact that you may have to attend to different age grades within a day. Your approach during sessions with toddlers will definitely be different from when you are meeting with teenagers.
On some occasions, you may have to see patients with social challenges in one hour, and those with physical disabilities in another.
Education for Pediatricians
Pursuing a career in Pediatrics requires many years of studying and training. Your most important goals should be: Becoming a licensed medical doctor and getting a certification in Pediatrics.
At first, you have to take an undergraduate course in medical science, spend another four years of training in a medical school, and then proceed on your residency or internship program.
The residency program is relative. That is the point where you get to specialize in pediatric tasks such as preventing diseases in children, diagnosing and treating babies with birth defects, and helping children develop and grow in the best way possible.
You should also read: Who are Optometrists?
Your first three years of studies will help you learn the basics of medical sciences and prepare you for activities in medical school. Most courses will be centered on pre-medical programs but you may have to choose one of out of Biology, Chemistry, or Mathematics as another major field.
Progressing to a medical school is the only way to become a certified medical practitioner. It usually takes another three to four years to complete your studies at this stage. Teachings will be centered on courses such as pharmacology, Psychology, anatomy, biochemistry, medical ethics, and pathology.
Towards the end of your studies in medical school, you will be introduced to clinical training where you will engage in more practical exercises than theoretical ones.
As soon as you are through with medical school, the next stage of your career is enrolling for a residency program in a health care center. This is where you will have the room to handle real-life medical conditions while being supervised by experts in your field. Your residency years will give you the opportunity to pay attention to pediatrics as a distinct field in medical sciences. It may take you some years to complete this stage of your career but every minute will be worth it.
Apart from the fact that you will be paid for your services, this is where you can actually have the first-hand experience with children who have medical conditions.
The next stage of your career growth is becoming a licensed medical practitioner. For this to happen, you must have sat for the licensing examination coordinated either by your country of origin or that which you studied in.
For instance, in the United States, you will have to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before you can freely practice pediatrics at the professional level.
However, some countries accept licenses given in other countries.
There are quite a good number of certifications you can add to your qualifications. The truth is, a certification validates your knowledge in the field and quickly increases your chances of landing your ideal job.
The American Board of Pediatrics, (ABP) is a widely accepted certification for Pediatrics in the United States. Apart from undergoing training for three years with the ABP board, you must have gone through all the stages of career development I mentioned above to qualify for the certification.
Countries usually have most preferred certification programs. In whichever country you decide to kick-start your career as a pediatrician, ensure that the institution issuing your certificate is widely accepted.
Specializations in Pediatrics
Pediatrics may be a specialization in Medial sciences, it remains a broad field with other areas of specializations within it. As much as you can practice pediatrics at the primary care level where your duties cut across all the sub-categories, you can also specialize in the one(s) you find most fascinating in the following.
Neonatal Care: This specialization focuses on providing health care for babies whose weights are considered to be low at birth. Neonatal pediatricians are specialists in treating premature births, congenital heart diseases in babies, breathing difficulties at birth, genetic syndromes, and other disorders.
Adolescent Paediatrics: As a Pediatrician, you can choose to specialize in taking care of patients between the age of 12 and 21, although, it is possible to extend the care to when your patient is 24. Adolescent Paediatricians treat conditions like diabetes, chronic headaches, asthma, substance abuse, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and, sometimes, depression.
Critical pediatrics: As an expert in this field, your duties will include treating liver failure, neurological disorders, lung and heart diseases, and extended infections in children.
Emergency Pediatrics: This specialization focuses on emergency situations involving kids. For instance, asthma attacks, pneumonia, poisoning, trauma, and injury in children are treated by Emergency Pediatricians.
Cardiologic Pediatrics: This specialization particularly focuses on caring for newborn babies with heart diseases caused by genetic syndromes.
Endocrinology Pediatricians: In this field, your duties will include treating children who are not growing at normal rates, children with diabetic conditions, thyroid diseases and other hormonal disorders.
Other fields of specialization in Paediatrics are –
- Gastroenterology (Pediatrics): Pays attention to food allergies, bowel disease.
- Paediatric Pulmonology: Specialist in lung diseases.
- Nephrology (Pediatrics): Deals with kidney diseases, kidney failure and kidney stones in children.
- Pediatric Rheumatology: Treats joint/muscle disorders.
- Pediatric Oncology: Specializes in treating cancers in children, leukemia, blood cell disorders, and anemia.
Occupational Therapy also shares some striking similarities with Pediatrics.
Job Outlook for Pediatricians
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that in no distant time, there would be a 10% growth rate in employment for pediatricians. This report is an indication that Pediatricians get employed faster than experts in many other occupations.
Again, as a specialist in pediatrics, your work schedule will be flexible, you get to assign the time for consultations, pick convenient meeting points, and also work in shifts. Most Pediatricians are able to have a work-life balance.
So, fret not. As much as your work schedules may seem tight, there would be times to rest and live life just the way you want.
How much is a Pediatrician’s Salary?
In the United States, a certified Pediatrician’s Salary starts from $98,474 on a yearly basis. However, many experienced Pediatricians earn as much as $200, 330.
This implies that the average salary in the field is about $147,543 annually. Source: Payscale.
The lowest income you can earn as a Pediatrician in Canada is $61,776. Although, experienced experts in the field earn about $350,000. On average, Pediatricians earn $234,100. Source: Nuevoo.
Entry level Pediatricians in the UK have an estimated income of £80,000 annually. But as they grow and gain more professional experience, their income increases to £160,000. Generally, many Pediatricians earn an annual income of £105,000 over there. Source: Gapmedics
In all, your employer, and your years of experience, will determine how much you can earn. For instance, a Pediatrician who works as a consultant in a public health facility would most likely earn more than an entry-level pediatrician in a community clinic.
As I mentioned earlier, professional and academic certifications are huge determinants in the quality of jobs you can secure.
Where do Pediatricians work?
Being a caregiver who specializes in children’s health, A Pediatrician is mostly in demand in health facilities.
Nonetheless, organizations and institutions that constantly interact with infants, toddlers, adolescents, and teenagers are a big-time employer of Pediatricians too.
Some typical workplaces are:
- Health Clinics
- Government-owned Health Facilities.
- Health Consultancy firms.
- Military Cantonments, among others.
Most Popular Pediatricians
Pediatricians may not be as popular as surgeons, yet, there is a countless number of successful Paediatricians. These set of experts have contributed towards making the field distinctive, relevant and crucial to medical science in general.
Here are some renowned Paediatricians –
- Jim Sears: Jim Sears is a United States-trained Paediatrician. He has once been an Emmy award nominee and has been a co-host on the popular TV show, The Doctors.
- Pedro Rossello: Born, raised, and trained in Puerto Rico, Pedro is a renowned Paediatrician and politician. He ruled the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico between 1993 and 2001 as its seventh Governor.
- Thomas Berry Brazelton: Berry Brazelton is a United States based pediatric scientist and famous author. His theory, The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale is still being adopted in many pediatric hospitals around the world. Berry has over two hundred scholarly articles to his name and has authored a total of twenty-four books. Some refer to Berry as being the most influential Pediatrician in America after Benjamin Spock. Berry equally hosts the TV program, What Every Baby Knows.
Best Universities to Study Pediatrics.
Like I mentioned earlier, you must have enrolled as a medical scientist before you can then decide to specialize in Paediatrics at the later stages of your education and training (Masters/Ph.D.). There are a good number of universities where Pediatrics takes a high percentage of their course work.
Below are Universities with dedicated, accredited Paediatrics departments.
- Department: Department of Pediatrics
- Courses: Pediatrics Residency Program, Pediatric Fellowships. Continuing Medical Education, Adolescence Medicine.
- Duration: 1- 4 years
- Study Option: Full-time
- Level: Postgraduate Studies
- Faculty/Department: Medicine and Dentistry/ Pediatrics
- Course: Master of Science in Pediatrics
- Duration: 18 Months
- Study Option: Full-time
- Level: Postgraduate Studies.
- Department: Pediatrics
- Course: Pediatric Residency, Pediatric Fellowship.
- Duration: 1- 4 years
- Study Option: Full-time
- Level: Postgraduate Studies
- Department: School of Health Professions
- Course: MSc Advanced Professional Practice in Paediatric Dietetics
- Duration: 1 year
- Study Option: Full-time (Part-time option is also available)
- Level: Postgraduate
NOTE: Just in case you need comprehensive guidance on how to enroll in these universities, I am just one email away.