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Choosing a pediatrician

It's often said that pediatricians aren't just experts at providing medical care to children – they are experts at caring for entire families. Indeed, since sick children aren't able to make decisions about their own treatment options, pediatricians are also "treating" the parents.

When searching for the right pediatrician for your family, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Get an early start. Don't leave your search until the last minute. Your search should be well under way by the final months of your pregnancy.
  • Don't pick the first one you meet. It's a good idea to interview several pediatrician candidates and then choose the one you are most comfortable with.
  • Consider the staff. Remember that it's not only the doctor you will be dealing with. Make sure that his or her staff is friendly and that they won't mind when you call them up looking for an appointment at the last minute (which is something you will probably do).
  • Don't forget insurance. Be sure to double-check that the pediatrician you have chosen is covered by your health insurance plan.

Pediatric Education

The physiology of children is quite different from that of adults and it takes years of special training to obtain the knowledge necessary to provide a child with adequate medical care. Pediatricians begin by obtaining a medical degree, which usually takes fix or six years. They then undergo additional training in the field of pediatrics. This is called a residency, and it commonly takes three to six years to complete. This specialized training often falls under the control of pediatric organizations (as opposed to universities or other institutions of post-secondary education). Once an individual has completed the residency, he or she is eligible to become board-certified with the American Board of Pediatrics. Upon passing the board certification test, the doctor can opt to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatric Nursing

Pediatric nurses (also called child health nursing) provide care to children, usually in a hospital setting but occasionally in a private medical practice. It can include everything from intensive care of infants with respiratory issues to rehabilitating teens who hurt themselves playing sports. It takes less schooling to become a pediatric nurse than a pediatrician, but the educational process still takes several years to complete.

A pediatric nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with a master's degree who has undergone further training specifically in pediatrics. A pediatric NP can diagnose common childhood illnesses, order medical tests and write prescriptions. NPs also focus on family health education, and schedule time in appointments to discuss issues such as potty training, temper tantrums or other concerns parents may have.

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