Pediatricians are doctors who focus on the physical, social, and emotional health of children. Their role is to diagnose and treat medical problems related to children from birth to early adulthood. Some of their responsibilities include:
- Providing preventive care services
- Monitoring growth and development
- Referring patients to specialists where necessary
- Treating illnesses, diseases, and injuries
- Assessing the need for further treatment
- Advising caregivers
- Prescribing medications
- Administering immunizations, and so on
To become a pediatrician, you need to earn a doctoral degree in medicine and then specialize in working with kids. In addition to the knowledge acquired in school and during training, a pediatrician needs to have certain qualities such as being patient, compassionate, communicative, a good listener, observant, and reliable.
Pediatricians play an important role in ensuring success in the medical field. Therefore, if you’re interested in studying medicine, love kids, and enjoy caring for them, then pediatrics may be the right career path for you. Before you embark on years of study to become a pediatrician, perhaps these pros and cons will give you insights into what this occupation is about so you can make an informed decision.
10 Pros of Being a Pediatrician:
Pediatricians receive some of the highest salaries in the medical field. Their average income is currently about $170,000 a year. You should expect more working in private practice or if you specialize in, for instance, oncology or cardiology. Location can also affect your earning potential. For instance, expats working as pediatricians in countries with a high cost of living can command more. Pediatricians also enjoy benefits, which vary by employer. Some of the typical ones include health insurance, retirement benefits, paid time off, as well as dental and vision coverage.
2. Flexible careers
Those who specialize in pediatrics have more flexible options to choose from than other specialists. Some choices for sub-specialties in pediatrics include:
- Adolescent Medicine
- Child Abuse
- Critical Care
- Rheumatology, etc
Specialising offers more employment opportunities, a higher salary, and gives you more options when it comes to working environments.
3. Many employment opportunities
Most pediatricians work in general hospitals; however, job opportunities also exist in specialized children’s hospitals, outpatient clinics, universities, professional schools, and in physicians’ offices. In addition to these traditional workplaces, pediatricians can also be hired by government agencies; NGOs such as the International Medical Corps, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders; or even work abroad as expats.
4. Pediatricians are in demand
So long as the world’s population continues to grow, which it is, pediatricians will always be in demand. The immune systems for infants, children, and adolescents aren’t fully functional, meaning they need special healthcare until they become adults. There’s also the rapid rise of pediatric neurological disorders such as autism, not to mention, increases in childhood obesity. These facts drive the demand for pediatricians because they are the ones who possess the knowledge to provide children with medical care and treatment. Demand is even higher in rural or low-income areas.
5. Flexible hours
Pediatricians enjoy greater flexibility in terms of working hours. They work fewer hours compared to other medical specialists. The majority work the 9-5 schedule, and rarely have to work at night. Moreover, pediatricians can choose to work on a part-time basis. Part-time work is ideal for those approaching retirement and wishes to continue seeing their patients, without having to keep a full caseload.
6. An opportunity to improve public health
Pediatricians are among the primary promoters of immunizations/vaccinations as they help raise awareness and administer them. Immunizations protect kids from getting infectious diseases and help to protect others around them. They also teach parents how to prevent the spread of these diseases and provide preventive care services. Your job as a pediatrician won’t just keep kids healthy, but the public at large.
7. Job satisfaction
The most logical reason people get into pediatrics is the desire to help children. It’s hard to think of an occupation that’s more rewarding than one that makes kids feel better. There’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes with treating a sick child, possibly saving their life, and seeing improvement in their health. The public health aspect of pediatrics, as discussed earlier, also gives a huge amount of personal satisfaction.
As with most medical professions, pediatricians have a good compensation program. They receive sick pay and regular vacation time. For instance, those who work in hospitals get 3-4 weeks of paid vacation per year. For those in private practice, you simply coordinate your vacation time with patients and staff/partners.
9. Working with children
As a pediatrician, most of your patients come to you as infants and you get to watch them become adults. You have a major role to play in helping them learn how to live healthy lifestyles. Kids are fun and cute, and working with them is a real joy. They are also so genuine and spontaneous with their feelings and thoughts, which makes it so easy to work with them. Eventually, you become a member of the community as you also get to work with the children’s families and carers as well.
10. An exciting career
Being a pediatrician, you get to interact with different kinds of patients. This makes your job more exciting as you acquire new experiences every day. You also get to treat various diseases, which makes the job challenging and allows for mental stimulation.
10 Cons of Being a Paediatrician
1.Lengthy and expensive schooling
To become a pediatrician, you need four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and three years of residency. If you’re interested in any sub-specialties, you’ll likely take another three years. You should be ready to spend over a decade in school to prepare for the weighty responsibility of this occupation. And, remember there will be lots of maths and science courses. Med school is very costly, and it’s just a matter of time before all these years of study turn into huge student loan debts.
Pediatrics may not be the most stressful occupation in the medical field, but it can be under certain conditions. The lighter stressors are children who are scared of doctors. Then, some parents feel like they know more about medicine than you do (although, you must remember that they know more about their kids than you do). The job can also be overwhelming in work environments with fewer pediatricians than patients like in public hospitals. Many pediatricians also cite frustrations with bureaucracy, paperwork, and the rising costs of healthcare.
3. Irregular hours
Most pediatricians, especially those who are office-based, can maintain normal working hours. This isn’t to say that hours don’t get long or irregular considering medical emergencies don’t keep a schedule. You may find yourself working at night, over the weekends, and during the holidays. For this reason, it can be a bit challenging to achieve and maintain a healthy work/life balance.
4. Communication difficulties
Children who are too young or developmentally delayed can’t explain their symptoms, leaving you to rely on your clinical skills. As such, you need to have effective communication skills and get creative when dealing with them. It also means performing thorough exams to ensure you come up with the right diagnosis. Be sure to chat with the parents/guardians since they know their children better. They’ll be able to point out what’s usual and what’s unusual about their kids.
5. Emotionally draining
Pediatricians get to follow children from when they are born until they turn into adults. This creates a special bond between them and their patients. Seeing your patients suffer can be devastating. Sometimes you have to treat children with life-threatening conditions, and while it’s unfortunate, bad health outcomes do happen.
6. Difficult parents
Treating a sick child is a team effort and involves dealing with parents, guardians, and carers. Unfortunately, some parents take positions that, in your professional opinion, are not in the child’s best interest like refusing to vaccinate. Some parents are extremely overbearing, while others are neglectful and don’t care about their child’s welfare. Either way, they can make your job harder than it needs to be. While it’s important to respect the parent’s authority, you have to always act in your patient’s best interests.
7. Exposure to germs
Pediatricians deal with sick kids who don’t have the same level of understanding of preventing germs from spreading. Uncovered coughs and sneezes are all too common in a pediatrician’s office. Scratching open wounds and unwashed hands are some of the ways kids spread germs to a pediatrician. You’ll likely catch a variety of illnesses from sick kids like the cold, flu, or even more sinister infections like measles. Being in pediatrics will probably expose you to more bacteria and viruses than any other physician.
8. Legal risks
Although pediatricians enjoy a high level of trust from their patients and the general public, they are not immune to medical malpractice. Pediatric lawsuits are usually the consequence of failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, errors in diagnosis, medical errors, missing conditions during routine exams, and failure to obtain informed consent just to name a few. A malpractice suit is not only costly, but it can also damage your reputation.
9. Physical demands
Pediatricians do most of their work standing, moving, and helping their patients. They have to pick up patients with varying weights throughout the day. They need to be able to sit and stand for prolonged periods to carry out examinations. They also need to have the very good hand-eye coordination to be able to give shots and perform procedures.
10. Patient deaths
The death of any patient is never easy. Seeing a young child pass away, especially when it could have been prevented with precautions and proper parenting, is probably the worst thing about being a pediatrician. Watching your patient in pain is already difficult; losing them is just heartbreaking and can leave you feeling guilty and wondering what you could have done better to save their lives.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.