A pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in providing medical care to children from birth until adulthood. They not only diagnose and treat children’s ailments but also try to help them maintain good health throughout their lives. Becoming a pediatrician takes years of education, training and a commitment to helping children stay as healthy as possible. Below is an overview of pediatricians, including what they do and what it takes to become a pediatrician.
What is a Pediatrician?
A pediatrician is known as a children’s doctor because his or her career is spent helping children from birth until they become adults. This can be until a child is in the teens or until they turn 21 years of age. Pediatricians work in clinics, private practice or in hospitals. They see children for medical reasons, diagnose illnesses and injuries, prescribe medication and treat ailments, whether it’s with infants, children, adolescents or young adults.
What a Pediatrician Does
One of the main duties of a pediatrician is to promote and help children maintain physical, mental and emotional health. In addition to diagnosing and treating children’s illnesses, they also address issues such as malignancies, genetic defects, injuries and childhood infections. Here are some of the many duties pediatricians perform:
- Develop age-appropriate treatment plans
- Perform routine examinations, annual checkups and immunizations
- Prescribe medication, order necessary tests and perform medical procedures
- Help reduce child and infant mortality
- Provide health care to acutely or chronically ill children
- Monitor a child for normal growth and development
- Provide counseling and preventative maintenance to children
- Help children work through developmental disorders, behavioral problems, depression, anxiety disorders and social stresses
How to Become a Pediatrician
To become a pediatrician, an individual must have a doctoral degree. The path to get to that point starts with earning a bachelor’s degree. After earning a bachelor’s degree, the student must apply to a medical school. One requirement is that the student earns a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. Applicants to medical school are required to submit MCAT scores.
Medical school generally takes many years, with the first two years spent in the classroom and the final four years completing internships in a hospital or clinic. During the internship, the student learns about various specialties, such as psychiatry, internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine and cardiology, among others.
After the internships are finished, the student completes a three-year pediatric residency working under the supervision of a pediatrician in a hospital or clinic. When the residency is completed, the individual must take and pass the medical licensing exam.
Areas of Specialization for Pediatrician
A pediatrician who wishes to treat patients with specific issues may pursue different areas of specialization and sub-specialties. Pediatricians choosing specialization areas often pursue fellowships in those areas. Once the pediatrician has completed all education and training requirements, he or she can work as a pediatrician. The doctor also has the option of becoming board-certified in any area of specialization he or she may have chosen. Some popular areas of specialization include:
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As long as we have children in the world, we’ll have a need for qualified pediatricians to tend to their emotional, mental and physical health needs. There are few things that can be more rewarding than knowing you’re helping children get through important times in their lives. This is the life of a pediatrician.