Becoming a Pediatrician

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Everyone loves babies, right? Often, the dream of becoming a pediatrician begins with this thought, that a young person can make a difference in the world by caring for babies and children.  But the path to becoming a practicing pediatrician is an emotional one built on endurance and medical expertise.  If you are interested in pursuing a career as a pediatrician, here’s what you need to know.

Education and Training

The road to becoming a pediatrician begins during your undergraduate studies.  Maintain a high GPA, and excel in your science classes.  You need not major in a science to be admitted to medical school, so don’t feel compelled to pursue a biology or chemistry degree, but those foundational science courses are necessary for admission to medical school.  You may want to take several courses in child and adolescent psychology and development to ground yourself in the workings of the young mind.  Once you are in medical school, you’ll pursue a pediatrics specialty.  Within pediatrics, you may want to consider a subspecialty of oncology, surgery, or neurology.  After completing medical school and your residency, you’ll sit for your board exams and become certified to practice by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Daily Responsibilities

Looking after a newly delivered baby in TanzaniaIf you become a pediatrician with your own practice, you can expect to have excellent working conditions and hours, as you have full control over the management of your own practice.  You’ll focus on the physical, social, emotional, and developmental health of your young patients who range in age from newborn to teen. Preventative care is crucial, so expect to give lots of shots, vaccinations, diagnostic tests, and screenings.  You will diagnose and treat common child illnesses and help those children with chronic conditions to manage symptoms and prevent progression of their diseases.  It is important that you are an effective communicator, since you will be dealing with both children and adults.  Your interaction with a child’s parents is just as important as the care you give to the child itself.  You’ll find yourself giving bad news on occasion as a child becomes ill or struggles to manage chronic conditions and treatments, so your ability to be compassionate, realistic, and optimistic is key to effective patient interaction.

Managing Your Emotions

As a pediatrician, you’ll quickly learn that the idealistic views you had about saving babies and children can be dramatically eliminated in the face of one ailing patient. Learning how to manage your emotions and sensitivity is something you’ll face early in your pediatric career.  If you enter into pediatric oncology, your ability to be strong and brave in the face of your patient’s potential death is crucial.  A career in pediatrics is not for the faint-of-heart.  Your emotions will be tested every day you are on the job.

Future Outlook

Only 5% of practicing doctors are pediatricians.  This is a growing field with many opportunities. Hospitals and clinics are always in need of pediatricians, and rural areas across the country require practicing pediatricians as well.  The average salary of pediatricians is $150,000, though depending on your location and specialty, you can earn significantly more.  The Midwest is especially in need of pediatricians and is paying a generous salary for these critical medical professionals.

If you have what it takes to endure the training, testing, and emotions of becoming a practicing pediatrician, you’ll be rewarded handsomely for choosing this important career path. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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