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There are many specialisations and roles within the medical field. Being as wide-reaching and complex as it is, it would be irresponsible and impractical to expect any single physician to have a comprehensive knowledge of all facets of medicine. This article takes a look at paediatrics, explaining the role and different facets of the work paediatricians do and gives an overview of the stages of training involved when becoming a paediatrician.

Defining the practice of paediatrics

Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in the care of children. They manage the medical conditions afflicting children, infants, and young people. Paediatrics, as a field, is split up into four general categories:

  • Neonatology - specialising in the care of newborns, often based in intensive care units and dealing with the care of premature children
  • Paediatric Cardiology - specialising in the treatment of children with heart problems
  • Community Paediatrics - community-based doctors specialising in the treatment of social, developmental, or behavioural problems, including those with physical disabilities
  • General Paediatrics - by far the most common (as most paediatrics fall under the label of generalists), these are the people most commonly thought of when paediatrics is mentioned. They specialise in the treatment of children from birth up until the age of 16

Most paediatricians serve as generalists in a hospital environment, but, as mentioned, they can work within communities or specialist units as well.

Paediatric doctor with young patient

What training do paediatricians do?

Like all medical professions, paediatricians are trained to the highest possible professional standards. Becoming a paediatrician involves many years of study at various levels.

More specifically, the training begins as far back as GCSEs. Having at a minimum 5 A*/A grades including English, maths, and science, as well as 3 A-Levels including Chemistry, and another science or maths are the general prerequisites to a medical degree. Failing this, some medical schools offer pre-medical courses, allowing for those without the appropriate A-Levels to learn the fundamental foundation knowledge for a medicine course. Likewise, non-medicine graduates can apply for certain graduate medical degrees, again depending on the course provider.

A medicine degree takes five years to complete, and entry is always competitive. Most medical schools also look for appropriate voluntary work and work experience as part of their requirements. This can take the form of work with schools, children’s groups, shadowing of doctors, or work with charities related to young people.

Medical students in a class

Many paediatricians also choose to take elective modules related to paediatrics during their degrees, meaning many have additional experience with the field which is expanded upon in later training. Completion of the degree means one is now a qualified doctor. Upon completion, training for paediatrics begins in earnest. Immediately following the degree, all UK doctors undergo a two-year programme at medical school known as the Foundation Programme. This course covers general practice and is followed by specialist training in the field of paediatrics.

The specialist training takes 8 years to complete fully and is considered to be a ‘run-through’ course, that is, training is continuous and students pass through the stages based on competence. The training is based on a set of learning outcomes that are approved by leading medical bodies and councils.

For those involved in the care of children or babies, for instance in an education setting, a Paediatric First Aid or Emergency Paediatric First Aid training course will teach you the fundamentals of first aid to perform on a child or infant in the most common first aid emergencies.