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What Are the Challenges of a Pediatrician?

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Pediatricians, the doctors who specialize in treating children, face a number of challenges throughout their careers. From getting the special training in pediatrics to the unique emotional turbulence that comes from dealing with sick children, the aspiring pediatrician will face a number of challenges over the course of his career.


A pediatrician is a medical doctor who has completed a course of specialty training to learn how to treat children. Getting into a quality residency program, which will both give the pediatrician the skills to give children the best possible care and position the doctor for quality job opportunities, is competitive. Once the aspiring pediatrician completes the competitive residency application process, she will spend years working 80 to 100 hours a week for minimum wage-level pay before she sees the monetary benefits of his years of hard work.


One of a pediatrician's primary duties for preventative care is to see that his patients receive their proper schedule of vaccines. By doing this, not only does the doctor protect the child from getting the illnesses the vaccines protect against but also protects other children who are too young to be immunized from catching the illness from unimmunized children. However, a study conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 linked vaccination with children's becoming autistic. Despite the article's findings being discredited by follow-up research, and the original journal that published the study formally retracting the article, the idea that vaccination might harm their children frightens many parents. For the practicing pediatrician, this creates the challenge of convincing such parents that vaccinating their children is the best choice for their children's health.

Child Suffering

All doctors have to deal with human suffering: It is the nature of, and reason for, their work. However, there is a big difference between seeing an adult suffer from illnesses, and possibly be fighting for their lives against disease, and seeing the same struggles in a young child. It also means that the pain all doctors feel when they can't save a patient is magnified when that patient was only able to live a few years of her life.


A key part of pediatric medicine is conducting the research that advances pediatricians' understanding of diseases in children and how to treat them. However, this involves research that has children as subjects. Any research that uses human subjects is regulated by strict rules to protect those subjects. In the context of research with children, these rules not only become stricter but require the pediatrician to engage with the numerous ethical debates that arise from children's having legal and medical decisions made for them by parents. The topic of "informed consent" in the context of children is only one of the issues that pediatricians will have to tackle throughout the research process.


Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.

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