Pediatrics And Choosing a Pediatrician-Ask Dr. Paul Library

DEAR DR. PAUL: My wife is 8 months pregnant and we were wondering how to choose a pediatrician for our new baby. Also, what exactly does a pediatrician do?

PEDIATRICIAN DR. PAUL Answers: Technically, pediatrics means "doctor of children". However, it's more than just following and treating sick children. The specialty of pediatrics is equally devoted to following and ensuring the normal growth and development(both physical and mental) of children from birth through adolescence(18 years of age). Unlike most medical specialists, pediatricians deal with a constantly changing patient population; When a child is born, he or she grows from a 7 pound baby to a one year-old who's walking and talking. During the routine check ups, pediatricians follow these changes making sure they occur normally. In addition, the pediatrician also helps in disease and injury prevention. Immunization (vaccination) prevents children form serious disease, and safety/environmental preventative awareness will protect children form injury.

One of the challenges in pediatrics is that babies don't speak and therefore cannot communicate. The pediatrician must obtain the necessary details from the parents or caregivers. Additionally, any treatment, although intended for the child, must be fully explained to the parents who themselves administer it. I refer to this as "medicine by proxy"; Treating children through an intermediary. Contrarily, when dealing with older children or adults, the treatment and communication occurs directly between doctor and patient. The following summarizes the key roles of a pediatrician:

  • Ensure normal growth and development(physical AND psycho-social)
  • Help in the prevention of BOTH illness and injury
  • Diagnose and treat( follow if necessary) illness or other conditions
  • Provide the necessary support, information and resources so that parents can understand as much as possible about their children's growth, development, safety, and overall health and wellness

How to choose a pediatrician for your new baby? A pediatrician is a medical doctor who has gone to school for four extra years (residency) after medical school to study and to practice in the field of pediatrics. To be a recognized pediatrician, one has to pass specialty examinations in order to be certified as a pediatrician. In the Unites States, The American Board of Pediatrics is the certifying organization. In Canada it is the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Making sure your doctor is certified is just one aspect. Being comfortable with the pediatrician you choose is key. Meeting your new pediatrician before your baby is born is a good idea. Also, get to know the office staff and facilities, working hours, and evening /weekend availability. This will help you determine whether or not you are comfortable with the pediatrician, and, very importantly with his/her office and practice setup. Because you're going to have a lot of questions about your child's health and wellness you must be comfortable with the pediatrician you choose. Also, "word of mouth" based on friends' and family's previous experiences is also a good source of information in helping with your choice.

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