Working in pediatrics and child medicine requires an astute understanding of every stage of development, from birth through early adulthood, compassion and a calm demeanor.
Pediatrics and child medicine deals with medical care for infants, toddlers, children and young adults, usually until the age of 21. Working in pediatrics and child medicine requires an astute understanding of every stage of development, from birth through early adulthood, compassion and a calm demeanor.
The focus of pediatrics is to provide preventive health maintenance and medical care and intervention for the acute and chronically ill young patient population. Pediatric healthcare providers include general pediatricians, physician specialists and nurses, as well as ancillary support staff. Supporting and effectively communicating with parents, legal guardians and other family members is a critical component of caring for pediatric patients.
What Do Pediatric Healthcare Providers Do?
Pediatric healthcare providers, especially pediatricians, focus on preventive health care. They also provide medical care for acutely or chronically ill children, whether the diagnosis is physical, emotional or social in nature. There are many facets to caring for children:
- Wellness checks and annual physical examinations, including immunizations, screening for inherited conditions, clearance for participation in sports and more.
- Diagnosis and treatment of acute infections such as influenza (flu), acute injuries, common childhood diseases, chronic diseases and developmental disorders.
- Encouraging and teaching healthy lifestyles. Discussing weight management, substance abuse, alcohol abuse and other social pressures.
- Appropriately referring patients to a pediatric healthcare specialist for treatment and diagnosis, beyond the general pediatric realm: rheumatology, hematology/oncology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and more.
Pediatric specialists, who are board-certified physicians, treat patients referred to them by a general pediatrician for diagnosis and treatment in their area of expertise. Pediatric patients require different specialized care than adults; most medical specialties have a pediatric physician counterpart.
Rewards of the Profession
The rewards of working with a young population are endless but the most striking is the bond that is formed between the pediatrician, the patient and their family over an extended period of time. The typical relationship begins as a newborn and evolves through early adulthood, usually continuing until graduation from college.
Caring for children is a satisfying profession. The privilege of working with children is a reward unto itself for a pediatric healthcare provider.
Stress, Hours, Workload and Work Environment
Dealing with sick children is a stressful job. While sharing in the patient's normal growth and development from infancy to early adulthood, there are also chronically ill and terminal cases for which these healthcare specialists care. These interactions and the accompanying decisions can be a depressing sector of working in pediatrics.
The workload in pediatrics can be hectic. Whether in an office setting or hospital, pediatricians and pediatric nurses deal with a constantly fluctuating workload. In addition, there’s always a steady stream of unscheduled patients, even on a full-scheduled workday. Hospital emergency rooms are prepared to treat pediatric patients on demand.
While many pediatricians work in a private practice with relatively normal business hours, there are many who work directly for a hospital and cover patient care 24 hours a day. Private care physicians frequently answer off-hour calls from concerned parents. They offer advice and solutions for home care or encourage an emergency room visit when warranted.
Who Works in the Pediatric Specialty?
Within the pediatric specialty, these positions have unique roles and responsibilities:
Pediatrician: This board-certified physician is a primary care provider for infants, children and adolescents. A pediatrician treats the physical, emotional and social aspects of the patient in acute and chronic medical situations.
Pediatric Nurse: This registered nurse (RN), usually Bachelor's degree (BSN) prepared, provides care to the pediatric population of infants, children adolescents. They work in hospitals, private offices and clinics, providing a wide range of care.
Neonatal Nurse: There are three levels of neonatal care depending upon the condition of the newborn. This BSN prepared RN works in an acute hospital setting, caring for critically ill newborns and premature infants.
OB Nurse: Caring for pregnant women, assisting in the delivery of babies, providing post-partum care for the mother and newborn care instruction, including breastfeeding support, are some of the basic responsibilities of the OB or obstetrics nurse. This nurse is a BSN prepared RN.
Neonatologist: This pediatric specialist is a board certified physician who cares for newborn infants. This physician also acts as a consultant on high-risk pregnancies, working closely with the obstetrician.