A pediatrican is a doctor who has trained specially to work with children and the illnesses affecting children. Pediatricians work with children and their families from birth through to adulthood.
Pediatrics is a broad area as children can have all kinds of health needs, and so children’s doctors often specialize in sub-categories such a pediatric gastroenterology, cardiology, or endocrinology. Some of the conditions that a pediatrician sees are specific to children, and some are illnesses that can affect people of any age.
Working with children requires a certain skill set as well as specific medical knowledge, and so child doctors are experienced in the sorts of communication and sensitivity needed to work with unwell kids and their families. Children’s understanding of their health and illness can vary widely across age and ability groups, and so a lot of the work a child doctor does involves the parents and carers of their patients to ensure full understanding and appropriate decision-making.
Pediatricians work on children’s wards in hospitals, and in pediatric clinics based at hospital outpatient departments or in health centers. Pediatricians work closely with specialist nurses, nursery nurses and play therapists, and family doctors.
Children needing surgery can have different surgical and anaesthetic requirements from those of adults, and so will children’s surgery will often be performed by specialist pediatric surgeons, with an anaesthetist and surgical team who understand the needs of the child in a surgical theatre.
Pediatricians can specialize in the care of very young infants and babies, and being a baby doctor requires a special set of skills to work with unwell babies and their families.
A general pediatrician looks after children’s health, and is also closely involved with the parents or carers of their patients, giving advice on diet, health, development and play. Children change and grow quickly, and if you have a long-term, regular pediatrician then they can get to know the child over a period of time, and address any concerns with the best understanding of the particular child. Some children have more healthcare needs than others, and these children will particularly benefit from a dedicated child doctor rather than the general family doctor, although there will be close liaison between the two for children with complex health needs. A pediatrician can be involved with the health of a child of any age and can liaise with obstetricians and other professionals involved in the care of the child and family right through from pregnancy and birth.
Many pediatricians will specialize in a branch of medicine within child health. Children with diabetes will see pediatric endocrinologists, children with stomach problems will see a pediatric gastroenterologist, and so on.
Pediatric medicine encompasses children’s development, behaviour, and growth as well as illness, and there are specialist pediatricians who work with children who have learning disabilities and difficulties.
Child health also involves prevention of disease through immunisation programmes and management of contagious childhood illnesses like measles or chicken pox.