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Pediatrician Duties and Responsibilities

While pediatricians can specialize in one or more areas of practice, most doctors who work in this role share several core responsibilities:

Conduct Medical Examinations One of the central duties of a pediatrician is conducting medical examinations and assessments for infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents. These examinations can include both routine physical examinations and office visits related to specific ailments or injuries. Pediatricians conduct a series of tests and checks to assess patient health, ranging from ear, nose, and throat examinations to reflex, pulmonary, and respiratory tests.

Develop Diagnoses While conducting examinations, pediatricians begin to develop diagnoses related to reported health issues or symptoms. A pediatrician may notice several indicators and decide to conduct further tests or ask follow-up questions of patients and their parents to get more comprehensive information related to the health issue the patient is experiencing. They may also work from a number of diagnoses and begin eliminating possibilities.

Establish Treatment Plans Pediatricians establish treatment plans to help resolve patient health issues and illnesses. This can include prescribing medication such as antibiotics to treat minor infections, applying bandages or salves to wounds and burns, and providing information to patients and parents regarding treatment procedures to use at home. In addition, pediatricians may request follow-up appointments to determine whether these treatments were effective.

Provide Referrals to Specialists If a patient requires further assistance, a pediatrician may provide a referral to a specialist. A patient that comes in with an unidentifiable rash, for example, may need a referral to a dermatologist, or if the pediatrician suspects that a patient has a broken bone or sprain, they may refer the patient to an orthopedist. This aspect of the job requires a thorough knowledge of doctors and specialists and the ability to determine a doctor who can help resolve the patient's specific complaint.

Maintain Patient Records Pediatricians support overall health and wellness by maintaining detailed patient records. These records can include details of specific visits, notes on treatment methodologies and their effect, and general patient and family information. These records can help with treatment at specialists' or other doctors' offices, and in some cases may be provided to social services personnel to ensure child safety and well-being.

Communicate with Patients and Parents Throughout the examination, diagnosis, and treatment processes, pediatricians communicate directly with patients and their parents. For young patients, a parent or guardian will likely remain in the room during the examination to ask the pediatrician questions and provide further information. Because children may be hesitant in the doctor's office, the pediatrician may also rely on parents to soothe and instruct their children.


Pediatrician Skills and Qualifications

Pediatricians work with children to provide routine medical treatment and diagnose illnesses and injuries. In addition to extensive medical training, pediatricians need the following skills:
  • Examination and diagnosis - pediatricians need excellent medical examination and diagnosis skills and the ability to identify patient illnesses and injuries based on careful assessment of symptoms
  • Medical treatment - pediatricians provide direct support to patients by applying treatment to injuries and prescribing medication to resolve illnesses, so they should be highly skilled at deploying a variety of treatment methodologies
  • Bedside manner - because they work closely with children and parents, pediatricians should have excellent bedside manner and feel comfortable discussing medical issues and options with families
  • Attention to detail - this role requires a high level of attention to detail, as pediatricians need to assess many factors to arrive at a diagnosis and understand minute interactions that can have significant health effects
  • Patience and empathy - pediatricians also need a great deal of patience and empathy as they interact with children to make a diagnosis and provide treatment or speak with concerned parents about their children's health
  • Communication skills - communication skills are vital in this role, as pediatricians need to communicate with patients, parents, and other medical providers to ensure successful treatment

Pediatrician Education and Training

Pediatricians need extensive training and education. In addition to a bachelor's degree in a related field (frequently pre-med), pediatricians also need to complete four years of medical school after passing the Medical School Admissions Test (MCAT). After completing four years of medical school, pediatricians enter paid residency programs where they gain further hands-on training and expertise. They may also complete internships to prepare them for a job in this field. Additionally, pediatricians need to pass medical licensing examinations and receive board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics (AOBP).

Pediatrician Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pediatricians earn a median annual salary of $172,650. The lowest-paid 10 percent of pediatricians earn less than $82,670 per year, while the highest-paid pediatricians earn over $208,000. While the BLS does not provide employment outlook data specifically for pediatricians, its estimates for physicians may provide a helpful starting point. According to the BLS, physician employment will increase by 13 percent through 2026, which is a faster pace than average.

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found many resources if you're interested in a career as a pediatrician:

The American Board of Pediatrics - ABP provides certification and professional development resources for pediatricians, along with industry news

Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics - this essential guide explores topics in pediatric medicine and provides students with access to online resources

American Academy of Pediatrics - this professional organization for pediatricians provides career advice and guidance as well as opportunities to connect with other doctors in the field

Case Files Pediatrics - read about 60 realistic pediatric cases to gain familiarity with real-world clinical problems

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