What Does a Pediatrician Do?

Becoming A Pediatrician

Doctor and nurse standing with baby in doctor's office
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Q. What does a Pediatrician do?

It is almost easier to ask what a pediatrician doesn't do, as according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 'pediatrics is a highly flexible specialty offering an extraordinary number of career options.'

Basically, 'pediatricians focus on the physical, emotional, and social health of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults from birth to 21 years. Developmentally oriented and trained in skilled assessment, their patient-care lens is focused on prevention, detection, and management of physical, behavioral, developmental, and social problems that affect children.

Pediatricians diagnose and treat infections, injuries, and many types of organic disease and dysfunction. They work to reduce infant and child mortality, foster healthy lifestyles, and ease the day-to-day difficulties of those with chronic conditions. With structured evaluation and early intervention, pediatricians identify and address developmental and behavioral problems that result from exposure to psychosocial stressors. They appreciate the vulnerability of childhood and adolescence, and actively advocate for measures to protect their health and safety.'

Even more basically, pediatricians take care of children. This might involve treating an ear infection, talking to parents about school or behavioral problems, or seeing them for well child checkups and giving them their vaccines.

Types of Pediatricians

But it is hard to generalize what pediatricians do because there are many types of pediatricians.

There are pediatricians who practice primary care, taking care of the general needs of children, and there are others who specialize, for example, only treating kids with cancer, heart problems, kidney problems, etc.

And how pediatricians practice also varies greatly.

Some work in an office, either alone or with a group of other doctors, while some work in a hospital, health maintenance organization, clinic or medical school.

Still others work as locum tenems doctors, traveling around a city or around the country, filling in for other doctors on a part-time basis.

The Average Pediatrician

A typical or average Pediatrician:

  • works 54 hours a week, with most of that time in direct patient care
  • sees 95 patients a week
  • works in a group practice (only 10% of Pediatricians are in solo practice)
  • is either self-employed (47%) or are employees of a group practice or hospital
  • works in an urban area
  • has a mean income of $139,600 a year

And the average pediatrician is satisfied and enjoys what he does.

A Day in the Life of a Pediatrician

Most Pediatricians in primary care have a fairly typical day, which generally begins with seeing patients in the hospital before starting their day in their office.

In the hospital, a pediatrician might have new babies to see in the newborn nursery or he might have to see sick patients admitted to the hospital.

After 'making rounds' in the hospital, pediatricians usually begin seeing patients in their office at about 8 or 9 am. These appointments will likely include many well-child visits, where kids come in for a checkup and their shots, and sick visits, with kids that have sore throats, colds, asthma, etc.

After a break for lunch, the day continues until 4 or 5 pm.

Some pediatricians don't go to the hospital anymore, allowing specialty pediatricians or hospitalists to care for those kids and allowing them to spend more time in the office.

In addition to seeing patients in the office, during the day, a pediatrician will likely have to spend some time doing administrative work, giving advice on the phone, filling out forms and doing other paperwork, doing research and sometimes teaching.

Keep in mind that 'typical' doesn't mean boring, though, as the type of patients and their problems vary enough to keep things interesting.


Pediatrics 101 Fact Sheets from the AAP

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