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What does a Pediatric Specialist do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pediatric specialists are people who treat children with specific diseases or disorders. Often the pediatric specialist is a physician who has studied extensively to address certain types of disorders, but sometimes allied health professionals specialize in treating kids. For example, a child psychologist is arguably a pediatric specialist. Even though each specialty is narrowly constructed, the breadth of potential care of all fields combined is extraordinarily wide. This makes it challenging to give general explanations about what all pediatric specialists do, since each specialty differs from the others.

For many doctors the road to becoming a specialist either means first studying pediatrics and then the specialty, or first studying the specialty and then its applications in pediatric medicine. Such study can take years to complete, and it’s not uncommon for pediatric specialists to have spent 12-14 years at least, counting undergraduate studies, training for their work. In auxiliary health fields, time it takes to complete training may differ as to specialty.

With such training, the pediatric specialist become expert in a specific field and in how to treat children with certain shared characteristics, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, kidney disease, learning disabilities or others. Doctors and other specialists learn how to do things like diagnose or rule out illnesses, and how to apply treatment. Since these shared characteristics are often not that present in the population in general, specialists also may work in more limited settings. Many pediatric specialist doctors work for large hospitals or children’s hospitals that have access to advanced technology. Sometimes specialists maintain a private practice in a community, but usually only if diseases or disorders treated do not need significant medical or potentially surgical intervention.

Where a child has one problem, he or she often has multiple problems, and it’s very often the case that pediatric specialists need to collaborate with each other. A child with heart disease may have learning disabilities. Another being treated for cancer might begin to have kidney failure. One advantage to specialists working together in hospitals is that they have access to experts who may treat additional conditions.

Frequently, a child’s pediatrician or family doctor sends the child to a pediatric specialist, if warranted. Ideally, specialist and pediatrician coordinate with each other to provide best care for the child. The pediatrician will oversell basic and preventative care, and the pediatric specialist will work on those issues in which he or she has expertise. Pediatricians may need to work with a number of specialists and can be the best resource for coordinating all care, and when this relationship works best, those in the pediatric specialties communicate with main doctors about all treatment strategies.

What a specific specialist does is much more detailed. Treatment or care offered depends fully on specialty. From a general perspective only, the goal of all specialties is to lend expert opinion to the treatment of disorders that require more attention and that are usually rarely expressed in the general population.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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