Many medical students intuitively know if they're interested in pediatrics. They understand children and have a passion to help kids to become as healthy as possible.
Within pediatrics, there are many subspecialties that address the unique challenges facing babies, children and young adults. Each of these pediatric specialties has its own focus, and several are recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here are some of the most common:
Neonatologists care for premature babies, including newborns with birth defects, infections and other complications surrounding birth. They are also involved in the care of the infant in utero if a problem is identified before birth.
Pediatric cardiologists care for children with congenital heart defects, acquired heart diseases like Kawasaki's and rheumatic heart disease. They also play an important role in the prevention of cardiac disease borne out of childhood obesity.
Childhood cancers comprise less than 1 percent of all diagnosed cancers per year, according to the American Cancer Society, but their prominence has continued to rise over the last few decades. Pediatric hematologist/oncologists use their expertise to treat children and save as many lives as possible, and to provide their families with hope for the future.
Although adult surgeons focus primarily on one area of expertise, pediatric surgeons are tasked with fluency in a variety of surgical procedures. From stomach and chest problems to plastics, pediatric surgeons handle a number of different procedures.
Emergency pediatrics provide acute, life-saving care for children and youths who have suffered serious accidents, poisonings, drownings, asthma attacks, seizures and conditions that need immediate and urgent attention. They typically work in emergency rooms that have the resources to care for children, like a dedicated age-based ER or children's hospital.
Pediatric infectious disease specialists care for children who have fallen ill from infection, whether it's bacterial, viral or fungal in nature. Youngsters are especially vulnerable to the stereotypical illnesses of childhood, such as measles, rubella and chickenpox, and can suffer severe complications as a result. Infectious disease physician identify and treat these illnesses to prevent severe complications.
Hospice and palliative medicine
Pediatric palliative medicine is available for children and families to help them 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, palliative care strives to eliminate pain and increase comfort for children suffering from an incurable illness, genetic disorder or similarly progressive disease.
In the event of a catastrophic disease or trauma, a child may need to be treated in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Physicians who work in the PICU are well-versed in the complex management of multiple systems, using artificial ventilation, central catheters and intensive monitoring to best treat their young patients.
Pediatric pulmonologists treat children and young adults with chronic asthma, cystic fibrosis, apnea and other diseases of the lung and respiratory system.
The transition from child to adult is a period of development with its own difficulties. Specialists in this area help adolescents through the emotional and physical changes of this age: sexual health and development, substance-abuse prevention and mental healthcare, for example.
Of the many pediatric specialties, each plays a crucial role to alleviate the burden of illness, disease and injury. Caring for sick children, helping them regain good health for a happy future or even allowing them to pass away comfortably all are rewarding endeavors for physicians who love kids.
By Kyleigh Roessner