The Role of a Pediatrician


A pediatrician is a trained medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating infants, babies, children and teens. Children have unique physical and emotional needs as they grow up which may be unknown by doctors who only see adults.

What is the Role of a Pediatrician

A pediatrician specializes in care for babies, children and teens. This medical attention may begin in the womb before the baby is born and continue throughout a child’s growth. 

As children begin to experience rapidly-changing physical and mental growth, it’s important that a pediatrician is involved in tracking their health and wellness, while understanding what is important for their age. 

Depending on the needs of the child, there are many different types of pediatricians.

Types of Pediatricians

The majority of pediatricians are primary care providers and work in a medical-based setting to provide regular check-ups and vaccinations. However, some pediatricians specialize in different health conditions and care locations for children. These pediatricians may work at a children’s hospital or provide care for children in an outpatient setting.

Specialties for pediatrics may involve different body systems such as the heart or stomach while others specialize in certain conditions such as cancer. Here are some examples of specialties for pediatricians:

  • Adolescent Medicine Specialists
  • Critical Care Specialists
  • Developmental Behavioral Pediatricians
  • Child Abuse Pediatricians
  • Pediatric Oncologists
  • Pediatric Cardiologists
  • Pediatric Pulmonologists
  • Pediatric Rheumatologists
  • Neonatal-perinatal Pediatricians
  • Pediatric Gastroenterologists
  • Pediatric Endocrinologists

What Do Pediatricians Do?

Depending on their specialty, pediatricians complete a range of preventative medicine and healthy living. Pediatricians may not only provide regular checkups with physical exams and vaccinations, but they may also treat injuries, prescribe medications, and diagnose medical conditions. They also work to track a child’s physical, emotional and social growth.

Each specialty of a pediatrician requires specific training and education on pediatric diagnosis and treatment. For example, a pediatric gastroenterologist has specific knowledge about gastrointestinal diseases common in pediatrics and safe treatments for them. 

Primary care providers or physicians who specialize in family medicine may not have this additional training to diagnose and treat an infant or child to the level of a pediatrician. As a result, they may refer parents to the appropriate pediatrician.

When Should a Child See a Pediatrician?

Infants and children should be taken to their pediatrician for regular check ups or any time that the parent has a medical question or concern. 

Children under the age of 1 should be taken to their pediatrician about 7 times during their first year. Those who are between the ages of 1 and 2 years should visit the doctor every 3 to 6 months for regular check ups. After the age of 2, children and teens should continue to see their pediatrician at least every 6 months. 

In addition to this, parents who have health concerns or questions about their child’s health should visit the pediatrician or call the office. 

Children who exhibit a fever of 104 degrees or more should be taken to the emergency room. If a fever of any temperature is accompanied by trouble breathing, seizures, confusion, or continuous crying, children should also be taken in. Parents of infants with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more should call emergency services.

What Education do Pediatricians Receive?

Pediatricians must complete medical school and a 3-year residency prior to becoming licensed. General pediatricians may begin practicing immediately after the completion of their residency, while those who wish to specialize in a specific area go on for additional training.

Each pediatrician must receive state licensure prior to beginning their practice. Requirements for licensure vary by state. 

Many pediatricians choose to earn their board certification as well, which requires additional testing and ongoing professional education.

What About Teenagers?

The age at which a young person will change from a pediatrician to a doctor who sees adults vary depending on preferences and insurance. Some insurance policies allow pediatricians to see young adults up to 21 years of age while others end coverage at the age of 18. 


Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of children, babies and teens. Some may be primary care physicians while others specialize in certain areas. 

Pediatricians undergo much of the same rigorous schooling and testing to become certified. Parents of young infants should expect to bring their child to the pediatrician often, while this frequency decreases with age.

When children become young adults, they may choose to stick with their pediatrician as long as possible to change to a doctor who also sees adults. The choice is ultimately up to the teen, parents and insurance companies.