A pediatrician’s job is not all cute babies and sweet smiles -- though pediatricians certainly experience their share of both. Real job hazards exist in pediatric medicine, and all pediatricians must prepare for each when on the job. Of course, there are hazards associated with every medical profession, and the rewards of working with children often outweigh the risks for those who are passionate about working in pediatrics.
From runny noses to uncovered coughs and sticky, unwashed hands, pediatricians are exposed to all sorts of germs and other biological hazards. Pediatricians can easily pick up a wide variety of illnesses from their patients, including the common cold and the flu -- as well as more sinister infections such as measles or HIV. Children’s doctors should routinely wash their hands and wear face masks when a child’s illness is especially contagious. Pediatricians should always dispose of used needles and other sharps and be careful not to stick themselves after using the instruments on patients. For pediatricians with children of their own at home, the risk of taking a sickness home is very real. Changing clothes before heading home is one way to control the transmission of germs to a pediatrician’s home.
When dealing with ill children, pediatricians face the raw emotions of patients, parents and family. For some people, the stress of a sick child can cause them to act out violently, their anger directed at the person they trust to care for their child. Children are prone to acting out and throwing tantrums when scared, stressed or in pain, and may lash out at pediatricians during even the most routine procedures. Pediatricians may be bitten, hit, kicked, scratched or otherwise harmed by patients. Pediatricians should remain alert and pay close attention to the behavior of everyone in the room while examining patients. Diffusing a situation early can prevent it from becoming a huge problem.
Pediatricians often face an enormous amount of stress and can burn out or become depressed when dealing with ill patients on a regular basis. This is especially true for specialized pediatricians, such as those working in oncology, neurology or cardiology when the stakes are often life or death. Organization is extremely important to help keep stress levels in check. Additionally pediatricians can experience orthopedic problems from standing for long periods of time and working on their feet.
Medical malpractice is a serious issue that pediatricians, along with other physicians, must prepare themselves for. If a pediatrician makes a mistake, there is a risk that families could take legal action against her. If a pediatrician faces a lawsuit for medical malpractice, she could find herself unable to continue to afford malpractice insurance. An inability to afford medical malpractice insurance will put a pediatrician out of the job.