According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents and guardians should begin taking their child to a pediatrician from birth. It is recommended that infants have regular pediatrics appointments and that children be seen by a pediatrician or primary care doctor annually. These medical doctors are often supported by PAs or Nurse Practitioners. They specialize in disease processes and often spend a lot of time supporting children who have viruses, colds, ear infections or the flu. At annual visits, pediatricians meet for 20-30 minutes and often ask general questions about development. At that time, children may receive vaccines and get a more general check up, and parents may complete some scales to assess general health. If a child has health concerns, a pediatrician may refer the family to a specialist trained in that area.

What do Pediatrician do?

Pediatricians are often the first person your child may see about a mental health concern. Commonly, pediatricians identify conditions such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), developmental delay, and genetic disabilities. For genetic conditions, such as fragile X syndrome, Turner syndrome, Rhett syndrome, and the like, pediatricians can order tests and make such diagnoses in the office or can refer out to a specialist to complete the genetic evaluation.

What do Pediatrician not do?

Pediatricians are not necessarily trained in behavioral health. Some pediatricians may do behavioral rotations to learn about autism and ADHD, for example, but only developmental pediatricians specialize in developmental disorders and behavioral health.

Can Pediatrician diagnose?

Yes pediatricians can diagnose both medical and behavioral health conditions. Some pediatricians are more likely to refer a child to a psychologist, psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician for a diagnosis like ADHD or autism again related to a lack of training in behavioral health.

How are Pediatrician trained?

After their undergraduate degree, pediatricians complete 4 years of medical school. The first year of medical school is primarily basic science classes in such areas as physiology, biology, and chemistry. The second year of medical school focuses on pathophysiology, which is the physiology of diseases. After that, the last two years constitute the medical rotations. The first rotation may be in OB-GYN, pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, outpatient pediatrics, and others. Then, medical students interested in pediatrics are able to choose a subspecialty rotation, such as neonatal or pediatric intensive care, pediatric cardiology, pediatric neurology, or pediatric gastroenterology. Then, they complete a three-year residency. During this residency, the doctor has little choice in the first year about where she/he is assigned and is under fairly close supervision, typically serving in the general outpatient clinic, the inpatient wards, and the neonatal intensive care unit. In the second and third years, he or she will supervise first year residents while also being supervised by higher level doctors and will have the opportunity to serve in sub-specialty areas such as pediatric orthopedics, pediatric surgery, and the pediatric medicine areas mentioned above. Finally, some doctors complete a Fellowship year or two. Generally, Fellows conduct research and clinical consultations. After completing medical school, pediatricians generally join a practice with other doctors, allowing them to share on-call responsibility and administrative duties and costs. Some pediatricians may work in teaching hospitals and clinics while most work in private practice, in clinics and/or hospitals. Some few work in public health or other government medical settings.

How can I find a Pediatrician?

You can find a pediatrician by talking with your local hospital system, calling a local children’s hospital, reaching out to a local primary care doctors office or through your insurance provider.

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