Is paediatrics the right specialty for you?

December 11, 2014

Gap Medics student Liam in the pediatric department, Iringa Regional Hospital, Tanzania Paediatricians are medical specialists who take care of the medical needs of children across all ages, from birth until the time they reach adulthood. From the time a child is born they go through various stages of growth and development in quick succession. As a paediatrician, having in-depth knowledge of all of these stages is crucial in determining what’s normal and what isn’t.

Getting into paediatrics can be a very satisfying career choice. You will be able to make a difference to the lives of numerous children and also be able to see them grow up as the years go by, knowing that you contributed to their childhood in some way. Children can also make very interesting patients and this can be a fun job for those who love working with and around them. However, while watching a newborn baby go through all of these stages can be very interesting, it can also be demanding and challenging.


Personal traits required to be a paediatrician

Paediatrics is not for everyone. Some people may absolutely love working in this setting and dealing with children day after day, while others may not be able to handle the stress of the job or they simply may not have the personal qualities to be able to enjoy it.

Here are a few thoughts on what traits are essential for anyone looking to pursue a career as a paediatrician:

  • You will need to have lots of patience. Children aren’t always able to explain what’s wrong. You will need to gently pry the information out of them. 
  • A good sense of humour will help you connect with your little patients better. No child likes going to a stern, humourless doctor.
  • Being friendly and approachable are essential to earning your patients’ trust.
  • Kids respond better to a doctor who is kind and sensitive to their fears.
  • You should be able to work well in teams, as you will often need to work with other professionals to give your patient the best possible care.
  • You should be dedicated to promoting children’s welfare.
  • You should have very good communication skills and manage to communicate effectively with children as well as their parents.


How much training will you need?

Before you actually start practicing as a paediatrician, you will have a lot of studying and training to complete in order to become a qualified paediatrician. This training usually takes around eight years to complete.

The basic paediatric training period takes one to three years.

The next two years – (years four and five), will be spent in advanced training. Advanced training usually focuses on three aspects: acute paediatrics, neonatology and community paediatrics.

The next two years – (years six to eight) will involve further training. Depending on your career goals, you could choose to train in general paediatrics or you could choose to undergo specialised training in a sub-specialty of paediatrics such as paediatric gastroenterology or paediatric neurology. Once you finish the training period (which will be at the end of your eighth year) you will receive a ‘Certificate of Completion of Training’.

If you genuinely care for children and can handle the longer training period, you will find a career as a paediatrician immensely rewarding.