The Role of a Pediatrician

Doctor and nurse standing with baby in doctor's office
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You might be wondering what a pediatrician does. It's almost easier to ask what a pediatrician doesn't do since they can be involved in so many critical aspects of a child's health and development from birth to 21 years. Since the type of patients and problems vary so greatly, primary care pediatricians in particular often have a wide amount of variety in their days.

What Pediatricians Do

Pediatricians focus on the physical, emotional, and social health of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults up to age 21.

Because they work with so many aspects of children's' health, they are highly trained in assessing, detecting, preventing, and managing issues that affect children. This might involve anything from treating an ear infection to talking to parents about school or behavioral problems to seeing kids for well-child checkups and giving them their vaccines.

Types of Pediatricians

It's hard to generalize what pediatricians do because there are many types of pediatricians. There are general pediatricians who practice primary care, taking care of the general needs of children, and there are others who specialize in certain areas. For example, some pediatricians only treat kids with cancer, or with heart problems or kidney problems, and some specialize in pediatric surgery.

Where Pediatricians Work

Some pediatricians 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

Here are some quick stats on the typical 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 is employed by a group practice or hospital
  • Works in an urban area
  • Has a mean income of $231,637 a year
  • Is extremely satisifed with his or her career

A Day in the Life of a Typical 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 or she 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 a.m. 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, and the like. After a break for lunch, the day continues until 4 or 5 p.m.

Some pediatricians don't go to the hospital anymore, allowing specialty pediatricians or hospitalists to care for their hospitalized patients, which allows 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.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics 101: A Resource Guide. 2011.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons. Updated October 24, 2017.

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