5 Important Characteristics of a Pediatrician

5 Pediatrician Characteristics

  • A Deep Well of Patience
  • A Diagnostic Laser Focus
  • Holistic Awareness
  • Excellent Organization
  • Emotionally Anchored

Any physician must practice medicine with a certain amount of rigor, but there are unique characteristics doctors need to be pediatricians. Working with children presents particular challenges and requires more fortitude than that seen in many other specialized fields. The article below lists five of the most important attributes and explores why they are essential.

1. A Deep Well of Patience

While all doctors should be both patient and methodical when in practice, it’s vital that pediatricians are calm and know how to cope with children. Young patients are often afraid of new procedures or shy of expected pain. Pediatric specialists and generalists alike must be able to calmly and clearly explain what’s going on with kids, and connect with them on their level of understanding. Patience is also essential when dealing with parents, who may be protective but misinformed about the real consequences of forgoing procedures, such as vaccinations or regular booster shots.

2. A Diagnostic Laser Focus

Usually, physicians can ask patients for their symptoms and receive a relatively straightforward answer. Pediatricians must not only be well-versed in potential symptom assessment, but they must also be able to extract meaning from the often garbled or unusual descriptions given by children. Parents can be helpful, but they can also confuse the issue further. When dealing with a pre-verbal patient, this attention to detail and ability to correlate data is even more critical. Attention to the details of behavior, physical presentation, and even changes to speech patterns of the very young can make the difference in diagnostic success. Many childhood illnesses and deaths in the past occurred because the symptoms were overlooked, dismissed or misunderstood.

3. Holistic Awareness

Pediatricians must view their patients from all aspects of health—mental, physical, and emotional. While these realms are essential in adult patients, hyperspecialization has the unfortunate result that only the immediate symptoms are treated, which can be disastrous in a child. Many disorders present during the first few years of life, and timely diagnosis is crucial, but these mental and physical maladies often show first with unremarkable characteristics, which can be misinterpreted. Similarly, signs of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse are often subtle, and the child lacks the vocabulary or conceptual understanding of abuse necessary to seek help.

4. Excellent Organization

While it’s true that all physicians should keep detailed notes and records, pediatricians must exhibit these attributes to a higher degree. As Samantha Ley notes in The Houston Chronicle that pediatric doctors are responsible for the care of patients at a uniquely vulnerable phase of life, and must thus keep detailed records of diagnoses, treatments, regular vaccinations, and observations of specific traits in their patients. These characteristics also help to build the bond of trust with parents and ensure a long-term medical relationship between practice and patients.

5. Emotionally Anchored

In an ideal world, the young patients of every pediatrician would recover from illnesses and injuries, going forward to lead fulfilling lives. This is not always the case. Children do not always get well, in spite of the best efforts of everyone working to heal them. Similarly, pediatricians often bear witness to atrocious abuse, unintentional neglect, or the battles parents wage with insurance companies to cover essential treatments for their children. It is vital that any pediatrician have an emotional grounding outside their practice. This improves their resiliency, so they can return to heal and help each day, no matter what that day holds. Otherwise, they become quickly drained and jaded, two qualities that distinctly clash with their profession of choice.

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Physicians of every sort should possess the qualities of attention to detail or a perspective of holism to one degree or another. However, the five characteristics described above are essential for any pediatrician, irrespective of specialization or focus.