WHY I LOVE BEING A PEDIATRICIAN
This was oddly hard to be eloquent about, even though I talk about it all the time. I think usually I rely on a lot of facial expressions and gesticulate toward adorable children to make my point? Anyway, thank you for having me write this out, @AlexandraLouise, even as clunkily as I finally managed, it was very much needed reflection.
- •Kids are the best.They really are. They're full of personality, sometimes sass, and they're often pretty damn funny. I get to hang out with them all day, listen to their chatter, play their games, and hold their hands. That's actually in my job description. As someone who really likes kids, that's a great deal.
- •It's hard (intellectually).In order to be a good pediatrician, you have to know about healthy and diseased states of premature babies, infants, toddlers, school-age kids, teenagers, and young adults. That is a lot of things to know about. Plus many of my patients don't speak (yet). It's far from boring or easy and it's important to me to be challenged.
- •It's hard (emotionally).Taking care of sick children can be brutal, no doubt. But by the same token, what I'm doing almost always feels meaningful. My work is important, which is kind of a pompous thing to say, but I also recognize what an enormous privilege it is that I can say it.
- •I don't have to check my biases about "fault."This is a super selfish reason. While I recognize that everyone is a product of their environment, it is much much harder to ascribe blame to a child for their health than adults. This makes my job sooooo much easier and I take for granted how rarely I feel angry at my patients (parents are another story).
- •Zebras.There's a saying in medicine, "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras," or common things are common and you shouldn't chase House diagnoses. In Peds, this mantra still stands, but there really are a lot of zebras: rare congenital syndromes kids are born with; undiagnosed normal variants just waiting to be noticed; diseases that used to be untreatable but now give rise to crazy new issues as kids grow up with them for the first time. It's super cool, in a nerdy, medical way.
- •I get to play a uniquely significant and memorable role in kids' lives.No matter what field of pediatrics I choose, I'm someone's pediatrician, THEIR doctor. This is a huge honor that stops me in my tracks some days.
- •Why so serious?It is impossible to take yourself too seriously in a children's hospital. My patients wear Frozen nightgowns, barter Spider-Man stickers in exchange for taking medicine, and host nail-painting parties for staff overnight. I have endless stories about hilarious stuff that goes down in the hospital. There are times to hunker down and get to it, but even then, someone has usually blown up a rubber glove into a balloon for the patient.
- •Related to the above, I never wear a white coat.And it's totally Kosher for me to wear sparkles and bright colors and maybe sometimes even black jeans to work. For someone who struggles with anything other than jeans and a tee shirt, this is a huge. My Peds business clothing would NOT fly anywhere else.
- •I like a good story.A lot of my patients have to rely on someone else who is only interpreting their behavior. Another portion can only tell me what's up with a limited vocabulary. Stories are something I love about medicine regardless, but I think the kid's stories (how that Lego got in their ear, the mom who just knew the bruise didn't look right, the 5 year-old whose best friend are bugs did you know you could eat bugs well he did and then he threw up so I threw up but also my ear hurts) are usually the best.
- •Everyone cares about kids, and that means I can focus on doing my job as best as possible.This was actually one of my main reasons for choosing Peds. Almost all children have insurance or are eligible for it. Nobody pretends that the social situation in unrelated to health. Ancillary staff--discharge coordinators, social workers, patient relations--is phenomenal. There is an entire department called Child Life that helps children understand things with play and dolls, plus they help calm kids during scary stuff with age appropriate distractions. Pediatricians are very well supported.
- •Kids are resilient.People frequently ask how I can stand to take see children be so sick and my answer is always that you'd be surprised at how much kids bounce back. They recover faster, they heal more efficiently, and have really good outcomes a lot of the time. It's such a treat to see kids who were critically ill get better and go on to slam dunk their futures. One teen I took care of all spring last year showed up on the floor recently and told me all about his college applications. That's Peds.
- •I love teaching and learning and am a giant nerd.This is less pediatrics-specific, though I do think pediatricians have to be extra good at explaining and teaching, because the audience is very wide -- from toddlers to grandparents. Medicine is an incredible occupation for many reasons, not the least of which is that nobody ever knows everything. It is part of my professional obligation to keep studying and learning, and I love that.
- •My coworkers share my values.Nobody goes into pediatrics for the wrong reasons. Seriously, there's not a lot of money to be made here. All of my coworkers care deeply for their patients and want to work hard to help children, and a lot of share the same geeky enthusiasm for learning. Obviously, not everyone is a delight or my best friend, but I am always confident that we are working toward the same common goal.
- •Babies.I mean, babies. One time, after a horrible code, I went to the nursery and just rocked with a baby and fed her and held her until things weren't so bleak. That is honestly in the purview of my job.
- •I feel lucky and privileged all the time.Just look at the point right above this. People trust me with their children everyday, what they frequently consider their most precious cargo. And they let me into their lives and I get to (most of the time) make them all feel better. It's terribly cheesy, and I know it, but it's honestly a privilege to have this job. It goes for all of medicine, but I feel like it's compounded by a million with children. Because kids are better than adults.