Pediatricians do more than provide infants, children, and teens comprehensive medical care; these specialized physicians give young patients the foundation they need to maintain lifelong health. Many practically become part of their patients’ families.
Medical students passionate about taking on the challenges and rewards young patients present will find a variety of pediatric careers to explore. Each career requires residency training in the overall specialty of pediatrics. After that, students may choose to become generalist pediatricians or train to provide highly specific care as pediatric subspecialists.
Choosing a Pediatric Subspecialty
Medical students considering any pediatric career can expect to study and treat developmental disorders, investigate how genetics influence disease, and provide the proactive care children need to be healthy physically and mentally.
Each pediatric subspecialty builds on that core foundation, addressing specific medical issues and requiring a particular set of talents and interests.
Below is an overview of some common pediatric subspecialties.
Neonatologists care for newborns who require intensive care.
A neonatologist may be called into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at any moment to care for infants born prematurely or with birth defects, infections, and a host of other complications. These specialists also monitor high-risk deliveries and catch potentially threatening issues and anomalies upstream, during pregnancy.
Pediatric cardiologists treat heart conditions in pediatric patients of all ages.
A pediatric cardiologist trains to treat and prevent a range of heart conditions, including pediatric birth defects, diseases associated with childhood obesity, acquired heart diseases (like Kawasaki’s), and rheumatic heart disease.
Pediatric hematologists/oncologists save and improve the lives of childhood cancer patients.
Responsible for diagnosing and treating childhood cancer, pediatric oncologists form strong bonds with patients and their families. On any given day, pediatric oncologists might find themselves discussing treatment options with one patient’s family in the morning and then attending a birthday party for a different patient in the evening.
Pediatric surgeons repair birth defects, mend serious wounds, complete transplantations and perform a range of other complex procedures for pediatric patients of all ages.
While adult surgeons focus primarily on one area of expertise, pediatric surgeons perform a variety of procedures on patients of all ages. To meet the constantly changing demands of their practice, pediatric surgeons receive extensive training to gain fluency in multiple procedures that incorporate a range of biological systems and surgical techniques.
Pediatric emergency physicians see children in need of urgent care as a result of any cause or condition imaginable, including seizures, accidents, poisonings, and more.
In just one day, these agile practitioners need to jump from condition to condition, and they rarely know what to expect next. They typically work in emergency room settings and have access to extensive resources for treating any issue.
Pediatric infectious disease specialists care for children sick from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Young and vulnerable, children sometimes suffer complications from well-known illnesses, including measles, rubella, and chickenpox. Pediatric infectious disease specialists pay careful attention to symptoms to identify and treat a range of illnesses to avoid potentially devastating complications.
Pediatric palliative care helps children and families manage the emotional and physical demands of a life-threatening illness.
Palliative care begins at diagnosis to ensure the highest quality of life throughout treatment. If an illness does prove terminal, then palliative care strives to eliminate pain and increase comfort for children suffering from an incurable illness, genetic disorder, or similarly progressive disease.
Pediatric pulmonologists solve medical problems related to the respiratory system.
These physicians see children of all ages suffering from chronic asthma, cystic fibrosis, apnea, and a range of other diseases that affect the lungs and significantly reduce a child’s quality of life.
Adolescent medicine specialists help adolescents complete a healthy transition to adulthood
These physicians address the range of issues particular to growing patients with rapidly changing bodies, balancing mental and physical health as they address concerns related to sexual health, eating disorders, sports medicine, chronic fatigue, and more.
By Kyleigh Roessner and others