Pediatricians specialize in child healthcare from birth to adolescence and are instrumental to the health and well-being of children. If you don’t have a pediatrician, it can place you at a disadvantage regarding your child’s health needs. Besides developmental assessments, screening, immunizations, and treating illnesses, pediatricians are also able to guide on behavior issues.
We can all agree that all infants and children will become ill during their early development years and will need to be taken to a doctor for treatment.
When this happens, as concerned parents, we can become irrational or overly emotional, mainly if we cannot find an available doctor to see our child, which is a severe concern in the U.S.
Being proactive about our children’s health and well-being should be standard practice for all parents. Babies need to have regular check-ups and their development assessed by a pediatrician.
Having said this, many family doctors have the skills, knowledge, and experience to assess and treat children from birth onward.
Choosing a family doctor or pediatrician for your child is a personal choice, but there are many aspects you need to consider.
Deciding on a pediatrician is an essential part of ensuring that your child will receive the best healthcare service from a doctor you can trust.
Let’s look at pediatricians and what may happen if you don’t have one for your child or children.
Table of Contents
What is a pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the care of infants, children, and adolescents.
They are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical conditions that affect children, from minor illnesses to complex medical problems. They also provide preventive care to help keep your child healthy.
A pediatrician typically conducts regular check-ups, monitors your child’s growth and development, and administers vaccines to protect against diseases. They offer guidance on nutrition, safety, and behavioral issues as well.
📌 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be screened for general development at 9, 18, or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever there is a concern.
If your child becomes sick or injured, a pediatrician can provide expert care and advice to help your child recover quickly.
Understanding pediatrician’s training and qualifications
To become a pediatrician, a physician must first complete medical school, which typically takes four years to complete and provides students with a broad foundation in the medical sciences.
After completing medical school, a physician must then complete a residency in pediatrics at designated hospitals and clinics, which typically lasts three years and provides hands-on training in the care of children.
Once a physician completes their residency, they may choose to become board-certified in pediatrics, which is a voluntary process that demonstrates a physician’s commitment to providing high-quality care.
To become board-certified in pediatrics, a physician must pass a rigorous exam administered by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Pediatric specialists have additional training in a specific area of pediatric care, such as cardiology or neurology.
Not all physicians who care for children are board-certified pediatricians. Some physicians may be board-certified in family medicine but still provide care to children.
Understanding a pediatrician’s training and qualifications can help you make informed decisions about your child’s healthcare.
Pediatrician’s role in mental health
Pediatricians play an important role in identifying and addressing mental health concerns in children and adolescents.
The training pediatricians undergo helps them to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders in children, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. They can also provide referrals to mental health specialists if necessary.
By working closely with mental health professionals, pediatricians can ensure that your child receives the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to identifying and treating mental health disorders, pediatricians can also provide preventative care.
This includes promoting healthy behaviors and lifestyles, such as regular exercise and good nutrition, which can help prevent mental health problems from developing.
Pediatric care during pregnancy
During pregnancy, it is advisable to establish a relationship with a pediatrician for your future child. Your pediatrician will be your go-to resource for information and advice on everything from breastfeeding to immunizations.
It is recommended that you schedule a prenatal visit with a pediatrician to discuss any concerns you may have and to establish a plan for your child’s care.
At your prenatal visit, your pediatrician will gather basic information from you and your partner, including your medical history and any high-risk conditions that may require special care.
This is an opportunity to ask questions and get information on what to expect during the first few weeks and months after your baby is born.
Most hospitals will ask for the name of your pediatrician when you are admitted to deliver your baby and will notify your pediatrician as soon as your baby is born.
Establishing a relationship with a pediatrician early on can help ensure that your child receives the best possible care from the beginning.
Benefits of having a pediatrician
As parents, we all want to provide the best possible care for our children, and choosing a pediatrician is important for many reasons. Here are some reasons why having a pediatrician is essential:
- A pediatrician can offer continuity of care by following your child’s health and development over time. This allows them to detect any potential problems early on and provide the appropriate treatment.
- A pediatrician provides preventive care for your child through regular check-ups, immunizations, and screenings.
- A pediatrician has expertise in children’s health. They understand the unique needs of children and can provide the appropriate care and treatment.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have a pediatrician as their primary care provider.
- Besides diagnosing and treating illnesses, pediatricians also conduct regular examinations to detect any potential health problems early on. This includes eye exams to detect vision problems and screenings for allergic reactions and chronic conditions.
What is very important is the relationship you build with your pediatrician and being able to reach your pediatrician at a moment’s notice.
Choosing a pediatrician
Choosing the right pediatrician is more critical than most of us care to imagine. Your baby needs regular check-ups to ensure that they are growing and developing correctly.
When it comes to selecting a pediatrician, you have several options:
- You can ask for recommendations from friends, family members, or your network, but you need to know why they recommend a specific pediatrician.
- You can also ask your family physician or primary care physician for a referral.
- Log onto the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website, as they provide a tool to help you locate a pediatrician in your area.
- Use online directories such as Healthgrades or Zocdoc.
Check to see that the pediatrician is board-certified and is conveniently located, so you don’t have to travel far for appointments.
Before selecting a pediatrician, it is essential to meet with them in person to see if they are a good fit for your family. Ask questions about their experience, their approach to treatment, and their availability for emergencies.
You will also get a sense of their personality and bedside manner, which is essential for building a trusting relationship with your child’s doctor.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- What hospitals is the doctor’s practice affiliated with?
- What other services are offered?
- What insurance does the practice take?
Consequences of not having a pediatrician
According to research released by the Association of American Medical Colleges in March 2017, “the estimated shortage of primary care physicians will be between 8,700 and 43,100 physicians by 2030.”
This data is cause for concern, and not having a pediatrician can have severe consequences for both you and your child. You may face some challenges in ensuring your child receives the care they need at a time when they need it most.
Here are some possibilities if you don’t have a pediatrician:
- Without a pediatrician, you may find it difficult to get the medical care that your child needs. It can be challenging to see a doctor who is accepting new patients, and you may have to wait a long time for an appointment if you do find one.
- You may miss necessary appointments for your child’s check-ups and immunizations, which can put your child at risk for preventable illnesses.
- If your child gets sick, you may have trouble getting a diagnosis or prescription without a pediatrician. A pediatrician has specialized training and experience in diagnosing and treating children’s illnesses, which can be crucial for getting the right treatment.
- Not having a pediatrician can also cause issues with your insurance company. Some insurance plans require that you have a primary care physician, and if you don’t have one, you may have to pay more for medical care.
- If your child has a medical emergency, not having a pediatrician can make it harder to get the care they need. You may not know where to go for emergency care, and you may not have a doctor who is familiar with your child’s medical history.
Is it necessary to have a pediatrician before giving birth?
While it is not necessary to have a pediatrician before giving birth, it is highly recommended to find one during your pregnancy. This will allow you to establish a relationship with the pediatrician and have a plan in place for your child’s healthcare needs after birth.
What happens if I don’t have a pediatrician for my child?
If you don’t have a pediatrician for your child, it can be difficult to ensure that they are receiving the proper medical care and vaccinations. Regular check-ups with a pediatrician can also help identify any potential health issues early on.
Why is it important to have a pediatrician for my child?
Having a pediatrician for your child is important because they specialize in the unique healthcare needs of children. They can provide preventative care, diagnose and treat illnesses, and offer guidance on nutrition, development, and behavior.
At what age should I stop taking my child to a pediatrician?
It is recommended to continue taking your child to a pediatrician until after puberty, which is at about 16 or 17 years old. After that, they can transition to a primary care physician.