What is a pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a doctor who focuses on the health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Pediatric care starts at birth and lasts through a child’s 21st birthday or longer. Pediatricians prevent, detect and manage physical, behavioral and developmental issues that affect children. Some pediatricians work in general practice. Others specialize in treating children with specific health conditions.
What education does a pediatrician need?
Pediatricians undergo extensive education and training. First, they must get a four-year undergraduate degree. During undergrad, they take pre-medical courses such as biology and chemistry.
Next, pediatricians must attend four years of medical school. In medical school, they take coursework such as anatomy and physiology. In addition, they take part in clinical rotations where they learn about the different areas of medicine. These areas include pediatrics, emergency medicine, neurology, psychiatry and radiology. It’s during these clinical rotations that many doctors decide what they want to specialize in.
Some schools, such as NEOMED, combine and condense undergraduate school and medical school for a total of six years of initial education instead of eight.
If a doctor decides to specialize in pediatrics, they move on to a three-year pediatric residency program. Residency includes extra training in various pediatric specialties such as newborns, newborn intensive care, general pediatrics and developmental-behavioral pediatrics. During residency, pediatricians must gain the knowledge, skills and experience they’ll need to treat a broad range of conditions in children.
After residency, some pediatricians go into general pediatric practice. Others pediatricians enter fellowship programs where they receive additional training in pediatric subspecialties. These subspecialties include neonatology, pediatric cardiology, adolescent medicine, child abuse and pediatric surgery. These programs take two to six more years of training.
How long does it take to become a pediatrician?
Pediatricians must attend at least nine years of schooling. That includes four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school (or six years at a combined university), plus three years of a pediatric residency. Some pediatricians spend another two to six years training in a subspecialty. All pediatricians must have at least 12,000 to 14,000 hours of patient care hours during training.
What is the average salary of a pediatrician?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a pediatrician was $177,130 in 2020.
What role does a pediatrician have and what can they diagnose?
Pediatricians have a wide range of responsibilities. They do everything from perform well-baby checkups to manage chronic medical conditions. Pediatricians provide preventive care and also diagnose and treat infections, injuries and diseases. Pediatricians:
- Perform regular health and wellness checkups (also called well-baby or well-child visits).
- Conduct physical exams.
- Track your child’s physical, emotional and social development.
- Diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries and other health conditions.
- Give vaccines.
- Prescribe medication.
- Listen to parents’ concerns and answer their questions.
- Offer health advice to parents.
- Refer families to specialists as needed.
When should my child visit a pediatrician?
Your baby’s first pediatrician visit should be within 48 to 72 hours of leaving the hospital. Their second visit should be at two to four weeks old. During their first year, your child should see their pediatrician at two, four, six, nine and 12 months of age. After your baby’s first birthday, they should be seen at 15, 18 and 24 months. After that, annual visits with your child’s pediatrician are recommended. Also, appointments can be made any time you have a health concern or your child is ill.
Why should my child visit a pediatrician?
Well-child visits are important for the health and wellbeing of your child. At these appointments, your child’s pediatrician evaluates your child’s overall physical and emotional health. They make sure your baby’s development is on track. Your child’s pediatrician also gives your baby recommended vaccines to help protect them from infections. At your child’s well-child visits, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to your child’s pediatrician about any concerns you may have about your child’s health.
Where can I find the best pediatrician near me?
If you’re starting to look for a pediatrician, you should ask family members, friends and other parents you trust for references. They know you and what you’re looking for in a pediatrician. You can also ask your Ob/Gyn for recommendations. If you’re new to the community, you may consider asking for recommendations on social media, but always do your own research. You know best what you’re looking for in a pediatrician.
After you’ve compiled a list of options, contact the offices to inquire more about each pediatrician. The office staff should be able to answer some of your questions, including:
- Is the pediatrician accepting new patients?
- Do you take my insurance?
- How are billing and insurance handled?
- Is payment due at the time of the office visit?
- What are the office hours? Do you have weekend or evening appointments?
- When’s the best time to call with routine questions?
If you’re impressed with what you hear, you may want to arrange for a personal interview with the pediatrician. Some key questions you may want to ask include:
- What’s your policy on taking and returning phone calls? Is there a nurse in your office who can answer routine questions?
- Are you in a group practice with other physicians? Does another physician cover for you at times?
- How are visits for sudden (acute) illnesses handled? Can you make an appointment on short notice?
- If my child requires further care for a health condition or disorder, will you coordinate care among specialists?
Ask yourself the following questions after the interviews to help you decide on the best pediatrician for your child:
- Did the pediatrician communicate clearly?
- Did they make an effort to ensure that all your questions were answered?
- Do you get a sense they have a genuine interest in your child?
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