Being a community pediatrician can be a deeply rewarding career, but it's also challenging, and it can be all-consuming. Because your patients will rely on you for their well-being and look to form a lasting relationship with you as their physician, you need to be sure you have the personal qualities to take on this important role.
Pediatricians need a sense of mission to care for children. You must feel passionately about your work, because it will often involve long hours and perhaps distressing situations. You must feel a great sense of compassion and a drive to help the children in your care.
You need to have excellent people skills to be a successful community pediatrician. Babies are not able to communicate directly with you, and you have to interpret their symptoms without their help. Even once children become verbal, you often have to read between the lines of what's being said to find out what's really going on. Parents may be emotionally distressed when they bring in a sick child, so you need to be able to discriminate between what's really important and what may be an overreaction.
As well as being able to interpret what's said to you, you must also be able to communicate strongly. You must convey a sense of authority when you give a diagnosis and be clear and precise when you explain a course of treatment. You also need these communications skills with your colleagues to ensure good teamwork with nurses, social workers and other health professionals.
A pediatrician must be able to put together information from several different sources and think critically about the picture being presented to make a diagnosis. You must be able to think logically, often under pressure, and evaluate and choose the best-fit solution to a problem.
As a community pediatrician you need to cultivate the skills of a counselor. You will be with children from the time of their birth until they are on the verge of adulthood. It's a time of great change and sometimes upheaval, and you are one of the people they and their parents will look to for guidance. You will be called upon not only for physical healing but for counseling on behavior issues, emotional problems and maybe life-changing events such as a teen pregnancy. You need to have a calm, reassuring presence.
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