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Careers in Paediatrics

There are probably as many different reasons doctors choose a career in paediatrics as there are paediatricians, but there are some themes which are particularly common.

If you find that some of the following ideas appeal to you, then you would almost certainly enjoy a career in paediatrics. If they all appeal, then you have found your destiny.

Do you like being an expert?

Children have conditions affecting all the major organ systems. Some of these conditions are rare, such as inherited metabolic disease. All paediatricians are involved in supporting the management of these conditions but some choose to specialise in the treatment of specific conditions as subspecialists. Some paediatricians pursue an academic career and research into the causes, prevention and management of childhood illness.

Do you like people?

Paediatrics as a specialty is all about young people, children and families. For most parents having their first child is an awesome responsibility and is consequently quite frightening. Quite a lot of paediatrics is about informed reassurance, which requires good communication skills.

Do you like drama?

Managing an acutely ill child can certainly be dramatic. Diabetic ketoacidosis, meningococcal septicaemia, severe asthma and airway problems all require prompt and correct management to save the child’s life and restore them to full health.  Whilst all paediatricians will be involved in this sort of work during their training it is not necessarily permanent. Those who really enjoy it might opt to specialist in paediatric or neonatal intensive care or paediatric accident and emergency, while others might choose a different sub-specialty such as community child health.

Do you like a challenge?

Good. Younger children usually cannot explain their symptoms and their parents may have misinterpreted them. A key paediatric skill is to elicit an accurate history.  Sometimes it is a bit like being a detective in a TV drama.  As a paediatrician you have to be able to cope under pressure.


Do you like juggling?

Paediatrics is a constant juggling act. You have to decide whether the potential gain from something you do outweighs any harm it might do.  Is it more worrying for a child and their family to be admitted or looked after at home?  Paediatricians need good clinical judgement. You will also need to be able to juggle the demands on you with the wishes and needs of yourself and your family.


Do you like being a member of a team?

That is just as well. Paediatrics probably epitomises team working, not just with other paediatricians and nurses but also with doctors from other specialties and general practice as well as many other professionals including physiotherapists, teachers, social workers and unfortunately sometimes the police.


Do you like making people better?

One of the joys of paediatrics is that most children are fundamentally healthy. They may become acutely ill for a range of different reasons, but when the acute problem has been successfully treated the child returns to full health, generally permanently.  Some children have chronic illness which can shorten or threaten life and impact on quality of life. These include cancers, neurological conditions and HIV infection. As a paediatrician you can be a real help to those children and their families even if you cannot cure them.


Do you want to travel?

Paediatricians are needed all over the world and there are opportunities to work overseas during your training, either through Voluntary Service Overseas or as a pre-arranged out of programme placement within your training programme.

Convinced yet? For more information have a look at these sites: