There are a lot of reasons why someone might choose against a career in pediatrics or medicine in general.
- the long years of being in school, including 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and at least three years of an internship and residency
- the debt that many medical students build up to get through school. Depending on whether you go to a public or private medical school, you might pay from $24,553 to $37,445 a year, and you will likely end up with an average of about $90,745 in debt.
- reports of the crisis and rising cost of malpractice insurance, with some doctors in high risk specialties, like neurosurgery and obstetrics paying over $100,000 a year. Pediatrics is generally considered a low risk area of medicine and traditionally have low malpractice insurance costs.
- the hassles of dealing with managed care and health insurance companies. While this can be difficult to deal with, it is more of a problem for older doctors who remember the 'good old days' when they didn't have to deal with HMOs.
- the difficulty of completing an internship and residency, where you might work more than 80 or 120 hours a week and 36 hour shifts, although the latest policy of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has worked to limit residents to working no more than 80 hours a week and placed other limits on the number of consecutive hours a resident can work.
Discouraged yet? Well you shouldn't be. There are many more reasons why a career in medicine, and especially pediatrics, would be a great idea.
It is true that there are many years of school, but is that really so bad? After college, if you compare someone who goes straight to work with someone that goes to medical school, which one is going to get extended time off for Spring Break, during the summer, and for major holidays? Reviewing this curriculum outline from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, you can see winter and spring breaks and 11 weeks off during your first summer.
And you might build up some impressive debt in medical school from student loans, but you will have plenty of time to pay it off and you will likely make a more than comfortable living. The average starting salary for primary care physicians is about $120-130,000, and up to $150-200,000 after three years.
Worried about long hours during your internship and residency? While you may have some long days and weeks, in reality, if you do have to work that long, it will only be for a few months out of the year, when you are in a difficult month, such as the intensive care unit. There will also be many more months, especially on electives, when you work just 40 hours a week.
What are the other benefits of becoming a pediatrician?
While you may have to deal with managed care and insurance companies, you also have a lot of flexibility and independence in how and where you practice. You can start your own office and be your own boss, join a group of doctors and share some responsibility, but in general, still be your own boss, or work for somewhere else and totally leave the trouble of running a business to them.
Want to work part-time? Not a problem. About 15 percent of pediatricians work part-time, leaving you more time to stay home with your family or pursue other interests.
As you have to do when choosing any career, you have to decide if you would enjoy the day to day duties of being a pediatrician. This includes working in the hospital, taking care of sick children in the office, and counseling parents about raising happy and healthy children.
And pediatrics isn't all runny noses and ear infections. As a pediatrician, you can be as challenged as you want to be, taking care of kids with complex medical problems like diabetes, depression and asthma, instead of simply referring them to a specialist.
Don't like babies or toddlers? Then pediatrics probably isn't for you, although you could work more with older children and teens.
Don't like learning? Then pediatrics and medicine isn't for you. Although you learn a lot in medical school and during your residency, one of the greatest challenges of being a doctor is that you have to continue learning new things as you practice.
How do you know if you would like to being a pediatrician? The easiest way to know would be to spend some time with a pediatrician. Spend a few days in a pediatric office following a pediatrician around and making rounds in the hospital.
Although you will likely come across some doctors who will try to discourage your from choosing a career in medicine, you would likely be getting advice from someone who chose the wrong career themselves. Personally, I love being a pediatrician, and it almost doesn't seem like 'work' when I go to the office each day. Okay, 4 days a week. I'm off on Wednesdays.