For soon to be parents and new parents, it is one of the biggest decisions to make before the baby is born and when it is born to look for the pediatrician most suited for their children. Before they start looking for one, they need to understand what kind of a physician a pediatrician is and what they should expect when the little angel comes to this world.
Who is a Pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a physician specializing in a child’s health in physical, mental and behavioral health terms. They are trained to diagnose and treat childhood illnesses in children, ranging from minor health problems to serious diseases.
Pediatricians have an education providing them with skills that care for children’s health (hence the reason they are colloquially referred to as child specialists). Upon graduation from medical school, they then complete a 3-year residency in pediatrics which aids them in becoming a pediatrician.
A physician becomes a pediatrician once they have completed residency and are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics as a pediatrician once they have cleared the needed exams. To stay certified, pediatricians must meet regular educational requirements most of the time.
What are the Responsibilities of a Pediatrician?
A pediatrician examines children for any medical condition or ailment they are suffering from. From a child’s birth, until it turns 2, they will see them many times and from the ages of 2 to 5, they will visit them until they are well.
After the age of 5, the pediatrician will see the child annually for annual checkups. They are also the first person to be called on the phone whenever a child is unwell.
The following are the responsibilities of a pediatrician:
• Conduct physical exams of children.
• Giving them vaccinations.
• Ensuring the child meets certain milestones in terms of growth, behavior, and skills.
• Diagnosing and treating illnesses, infections, injuries and other health issues a child is facing.
• Give parents information about their child’s health, safety, nutrition, and fitness needs.
• Answering queries about the child’s development and growth.
• Referring to parents to specialists if the child needs expert care.
The educational requirements of becoming a pediatrician – how can a medical graduate become one?
The following are the educational requirements an aspiring pediatrician should meet:
• A Doctor of Medicine (M.D) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (O.D) degree upon completion of either a pre-med program or another related bachelor’s degree (preferably in either nursing or biological sciences).
• A licensure certification by clearing the United States Medical Licensing Exam as well as the state licensing exam required in each state and board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics.
• They need to have at least 3 to 6 years of residency (Dependent on their specialty).
• The skills they need are strong communication skills in writing and speaking, problem-solving skills, knowledge of medical software in managing charts of patients and most important, empathy.
Let us now have a detailed look at how a medical graduate can become a pediatrician and advance up the career ladder:
1. Earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field
A lot of medical schools do not often require any particular bachelor’s degree for admission, but they do look for students who have completed the pre-med program, which can be completed through majors in math, biology, chemistry, and physics.
Students are also expected to study English and social sciences when studying pre-medical coursework (pre-med program). But a degree in biological sciences is a common entry ticket for students to enter medical school. Whereas, some medical schools offered a structured pre-med program designed to help students be prepared for medical school.
Top-notch medical schools (regardless of whether it is John Hopkins School of Medicine, the best Caribbean medical school, Harvard University medical school and the like) often require from applicants to take the medical college admissions test (MCAT). Students are often evaluated on their knowledge of physical science and biology, cognitive skills and verbal reasoning skills.
2. Earning a Medical Degree
Students then need to complete either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O) degree. The first two years in these degrees consist of classroom work of basic sciences, taking courses in medical procedures, different systems, various diseases and much more.
In the clinical sciences part of these degree programs, students complete clinical rotations, work with patients under the supervision of a licensed physician. Clinical rotations are done in areas such as pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatry, internal medicine and the like.
Students usually complete the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) before starting clinical instructions. Students start the second part of such exams after completing clinical instructions. Also, some states require students to complete parts one and two of the USMLE before they start residency. New pediatricians commonly take the last step during residency after medical school.
Most students use the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) to obtain their residency assignments. In this regard, students must create a large list of residency programs in pediatrics and schedule interviews in these programs.
3. Completing a residency program
During the residency, aspiring pediatricians get the chance to receive a focused introduction related to their field and work with a hands-on approach with patients during clinical rotations. They assess their work (case studies included), in meetings and group settings designed for residents specifically.
As per the American Association of medical colleges, a residency in pediatrics lasts three years and, in this period, residents learn about general pediatrics and caring for newborn babies.
Students can select from a wide array of specialties among their pediatric classes, like adolescent medicine, pediatric sports medicine, pediatric gastroenterology, and neonatal-perinatal medicine. Selecting a subspecialty can extend one’s residency by up to three years.
Residency can be challenging and graduates in residency might need to relocate. Creating a network can give them emotional and professional support for individuals trying to learn their profession. Joining a professional organization and seeking out mentors can help aspiring pediatricians adjust to new workload, new place, lifestyle, and hospital.
The hectic schedule a resident can force many aspiring pediatricians to sacrifice exercise, sleep, relationships, hobbies many other good habits. However, having a strong relationship, regular eating, sleeping and exercising habits can help residents stay productive. Residents should hence be able to integrate healthy habits into their hectic lifestyles.
4. Obtaining a Medical License
It is required from pediatricians to obtain a license from the licensing board of their respective states. Though requirements differ from one state to another, all pediatricians must submit confirmation of education and training. They also must successfully appear in and clear all three parts of the USMLE.
5. Earning and maintaining their certifications
The American Board of Pediatrics offers optional certification courses to pediatricians who are licensed. For eligibility, they must complete relevant medical training within the past 7 years. Individuals who have a lapse of more than 7 years might need to undergo additional training.
Applicants must also take the certification exam (consisting of 300 to 350 questions). Pediatricians can also be certified in a subspecialty if they take an additional subspecialty certification exam.To remain certified, pediatricians are required to continue their education.
The American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Medical Specialties have developed a four-part program to help physicians stay updated on the latest developments in pediatrics. Pediatricians are also required to earn continuing education credits. They are often evaluated regularly based on their professionalism, medical knowledge, practice techniques, and communication skills by taking an exam every ten years.
Maintaining certifications exhibits professionalism and dedication to the discipline. This can also take pediatricians to opportunities of advancing their careers in clinics, hospitals and other medical facilities employing them.
Over to you – will you become a pediatrician?
A pediatrician’s educational track is tough, but it should not deter medical students from caring for children and their medical needs. It is worth it if a medical student like you considers specializing in pediatrics.