If you’re considering a career in medicine, you might be considering becoming a pediatrician. Working with kids can be incredibly rewarding, but before you start down this career path, it’s wise to understand all you can about what being a pediatrician entails.
Here are 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming a Pediatrician
1. Medical Schools Look At More Than The MCAT
Doing well in premedical courses and on the MCAT is certainly important. But often, medical schools will evaluate applicants holistically to see which ones will make good doctors.
They’ll likely look at your accomplishments, but most schools will look at your critical thinking skills, cultural competence, teamwork, aptitude for scientific inquiry, and more.
2. You’ll Need To Do A Residency Program
In order to go into pediatrics, you will need to complete a residency program. Pediatrics residencies are usually three years, but if you choose a subspecialty, your residency may be longer.
During your residency, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from experienced doctors while building valuable experience.
In many cases, doctors going into pediatrics will choose to study a sub-specialty. This intensive training will usually last 2-3 years after residency. There is a range of subspecialty fellowship programs you can apply for: cardiology, pulmonology, immunology, critical care, neonatology, and nephrology are some of the potential choices.
3. You Need A Licensure To Practice
To practice medicine in the U.S., you need to be licensed. The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) has three separate parts, so most people begin early, completing the first and second phases during medical school. Usually, the third and final stage will be completed during residency.
After residency (and after a subspecialty fellowship, if you decide to pursue one), you will also need a state license to practice. Once you’ve earned your MD, completed your residency, and passed the USMLE, you can take your state licensing exam to become licensed to practice in your state.
4. Board Certification Is Optional (But Recommended)
You aren’t required to be board certified to practice medicine in general or to be a pediatrician. But if you want to show potential patients that you have the ability and inclination to go above and beyond, board certification is an excellent idea.
The American Board of Pediatrics administers this especially challenging exam. If you choose to become board certified, you’ll also become part of a network of motivated physicians, access unique research opportunities, and more.
5. You’ll Need To Do Continuing Education
If you do choose to become board certified, you’ll need to do continuing education to maintain that certification. Continuing education also helps you to grow as a practitioner, as you’ll stay abreast of new developments in the field.
The American Board of Pediatrics offers highly flexible options for continuing education. In many cases, pediatricians can complete continuing education online in gradual increments. This online, non-proctored assessment is called the Maintenance of Certification Assessment for Pediatrics, or MOCA-Peds.
Like the board exam itself, this assessment is rigorous. A MOCA-PEDS study guide will help you prepare on your own time.
6. Caring For Children Is A Unique Experience
Often, as a pediatrician, you’ll feel as though you’re helping your clients in more ways than just medically. You may feel as though you’re an unofficial psychologist and social worker as well as a doctor! Children need to be monitored for emotional changes, potential self-harm, and more. And one of the signs of a great pediatrician is knowing when you need to make a referral.
Treating children’s medical issues is also a much different experience than treating adults. Adults can usually explain all of their symptoms (or explain how an injury occurred). Children who are too young to speak won’t be able to tell you why they’re in pain.
This is where observation skills are critical: you’ll need to observe the child’s body language and look for other cues to help you figure out what’s wrong.
As you can see, the road to becoming a pediatrician is a long one, and it’s significantly challenging. But if caring for children is your calling, you’ll likely find it to be a meaningful and fulfilling career path.