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If the thought of helping children and teenagers interests you, then maybe pediatrics is a field to consider. Pediatricians are specialists who provide medical care and treatment for children from birth through adolescence. They specialize in both preventive health maintenance for healthy children and medical care for children who are acutely or chronically ill. Besides physical and medical ailments, pediatricians also manage the mental and emotional well-being of their patients in every stage of development.

Since a child's formative years are very important in terms of growing healthy, strong bones and teaching them how to take care of themselves, it is important that a pediatrician practices educative and preventative care and guidance to ensure healthy growth and development in children and youth. They encourage proper nutrition, administer immunizations and suggest exercise and other outdoor activities.

Years ago, pediatricians spent their time treating children with diseases such as mumps, measles, rubella and diphtheria. However, because of the decline of these diseases and the increase in preventative vaccinations, pediatricians now help children with all problems, down to psychological issues. Today, they deal with problems such as asthma, allergies, acne, drug abuse and attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

As psychological and social conditions have made once-simple issues harder for young adults, a pediatricians role in this realm has also become more important. Pediatricians who have known their patients since birth may be the only other adult influence besides their parents that children may trust or go to with serious problems. When adolescents go through puberty, they often need the guidance and support of a pediatrician to explain the various changes taking place in their lives. Young people faced with family violence, homelessness and substance abuse often turn to pediatricians, as well.

Nevertheless, a pediatrician's first job is to diagnose illness and other medical conditions in their young patients. They perform physical exams, compile a log of the patient's medical history and also, like all other physicians, order tests and administer needles. They recommend treatment methods, including medications, antibiotics, creams, drops, vitamins, sprays and diet changes.

Sometimes the pediatrician refers their patient to a specialist, social worker or psychiatrist, in case of psychological problems. With the rise of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cases amongst youngsters, pediatricians are noticing similar symptoms, such as the inability to concentrate on anything for more than a short period of time, or extreme hyperactivity, in their patients. They can prescribe medications which are supposed to help children concentrate. However, many doctors are becoming more skeptical and infrequent in prescribing these types of medications, seeking alternative methods of treatment.
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  Interests and Skills  
Pediatricians are compassionate people, with an abundance of patience, who love working with children. They need excellent communication skills, as they must be able to explain serious medical terminology to children in terms that they can understand. They also have to deal with worried parents; therefore they need to have a reassuring and sensitive nature.

Many have a good sense of humor and use that tactic as a way of easing scared children. They must have a good deal of manual dexterity and sharp eye, especially those who work as surgeons. Finally, most are cool-headed and decisive and can make logical and quick decisions.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan and carry out a medical care program for children from birth through adolescence to aid in mental and physical growth and development
  • Discuss a patients medical and developmental problems with the patient and often the parents or caregivers
  • Study a patients medical history
  • Examine a patient to determine the presence of disease, establish preventative health practices and carry out tests
  • Use the test results and examinations to decide on appropriate treatment
  • Prescribe and give medicine and other treatments
  • Carry out certain procedures for diagnosis or care such as attaching life-supporting equipment
  • Monitor results of treatment
  • Advise a patient or caregivers on health care programs
  • Investigate causes of diseases
  • Pediatricians work long hours, especially when they start their careers, because they are trying to establish a client base. They generally work about 50 to 60 hours per week , which will often include weekends to accommodate schedules. Some pediatricians get swamped with administrative work and others are involved in teaching and research.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most pediatricians work in private practices or in a group practice with other physicians. Some work at hospitals and specialize in surgery, while others are found teaching at universities.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since it takes so many years to become a pediatrician and most go into the profession for the love of children; most pediatricians stay with the job. However, those who wish to change careers or advance may move into hospital administration positions, move into the government and work as a health policy advisor or consultant, or work for a pharmaceutical company. Others may decide to teach or focus their work strictly on research.

  Educational Paths  
Becoming a pediatrician requires a long educational road, so be prepared for a lifelong learning experience. Most start with a Bachelor of Science degree, however some Bachelor of Arts graduates may be accepted into medical school programs. While in high school, take math and science classes. Also, not all medical schools require a bachelor's degree and with good marks, some students can get accepted after two years of undergraduate studies. Check with the school for their requirements before applying.

Pediatricians complete four years of medical school and then a year of internship before entering residency graduate education, which usually takes about four years. Following the residency, pediatricians must take an additional two to four years in a specialization, such as pediatric surgery.
Finally, before entering medical school, it is a good idea to volunteer in a hospital, nursing home or community center. This is a way to gain valuable experience dealing with people who need help and to find out what it is like to work as a doctor. Also, experience working with children, for example as a summer camp counselor, or volunteering at a daycare may help you decide if you like working with children.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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