As specialists in children’s health care, pediatricians know something pretty special about the children they serve — they know they have unique needs and are not just little adults. “Children are much different from adults in that they have developmental phases and milestones and specific diseases that affect them,” says Christopher Youngman, M.D., pediatrician and chief medical officer with Wayne Pediatrics. “The causes of a child’s symptoms may be different from an adult, and it changes continuously during growth and development.”
From routine visits to bumps and bruises or care for a specific condition, there are many reasons why a pediatrician — rather than a general physician — is uniquely qualified to provide children’s health care.
“As pediatricians, our training focuses on treating children from birth through young adulthood,” says Dr. Youngman, adding that when a family can partner with a group of pediatricians and pediatric specialists, they are in the best position to receive the best in children’s health care.
“At Wayne Pediatrics, we are all board-certified pediatricians and we work as a group, not only treating children and families, but we also have students incorporated into our clinic. Education is important for them and for our families,” Dr. Youngman says. “Parents may spend a brief time in our office, but what we discuss and the information you take home is important. We teach families to help them get a deeper understanding of their child’s condition and what to expect.”
When it comes to providing specialized children’s health care, a pediatrician is a parent’s best choice for their child. Here are some important reasons why you should choose a pediatrician for your child’s care.
Trained to provide children’s health care
In addition to specialized medical training, pediatricians learn how to best communicate with children — and their parents. This is especially important when a child is too young to take part in the conversation, says Dr. Youngman.
“Often children are unable to speak for themselves or may not be comfortable doing so,” he says. “So we gain a partnership with the child’s caregivers to help them have an understanding of what is going on. From day one of our training, we interact with the whole family to understand when they are attuned to what is normal for the child and what isn’t. We take this very seriously.”
Your pediatrician can be a trusted partner in your child’s health and development, too. “Children’s developmental milestones are affected by nature and nurture, so interacting with your child’s pediatrician can help promote your child’s development on that nurture side,” Dr. Youngman explains. “The pediatrician can guide you in activities to do with your child and help develop expectations of the milestones they will reach.”
While parents are the experts in their child, pediatricians are experts in what development, growth and behaviors are within the realm of normal — and what may need evaluation and intervention.
What pediatricians do
The role of a pediatrician in children’s health care is broad, but there are some common roles that all pediatricians fulfill.
“On a routine day, we will conduct well-child or preventative checkups. There are many of these in the first couple of years of a child’s life, and then they space out a bit more. By the time they reach school age, they are annual visits,” Dr. Youngman says. During these visits, a pediatrician will assess a child’s growth and development and screen for conditions and, if necessary, make interventions as early as possible for best outcomes.
They review immunizations and answer families’ questions about immunizations. “We work to keep kids up to date and best protected against vaccine-preventable illnesses,” he says.
Pediatricians also conduct acute visits, when they care for sick kids or those with minor injuries or behavioral concerns. “We coordinate with specialists to set imaging or laboratory testing to work up any condition a child may have,” Dr. Youngman explains.
How to choose a pediatrician
When you’re looking for just the right pediatrician for your child, consider your level of trust with a particular pediatrician or pediatric group. “It’s important to trust what your provider is telling you about your child as well as the treatment options,” Dr. Youngman says. “When the provider is part of an academic institution, they are continually learning about how the field is advancing, and that’s a bonus.”
Some pediatrician groups even have subspecialists on staff, which is convenient when your child has a specific need. For example, Wayne Pediatrics has subspecialists in infectious diseases, allergy and immunology, nephrology, endocrinology and rheumatology — one of only a handful of pediatric rheumatologists in Michigan.
“This is something that is unique to Wayne Pediatrics and it’s a real advantage when kids can be seen in the same space or even consult with the pediatrician at the same time,” Dr. Youngman says.
Because you’ll be interacting with nurses, medical assistants and office staff, make sure you are comfortable with everyone in the office. Location, personal referrals and insurance acceptance are all considerations, too.
Don’t wait until your baby is born to choose your pediatrician. “Most will offer a get-to-know-you visit at no charge to meet the staff and make sure it’s a comfortable environment,” Dr. Youngman says. “Your child is your most precious investment in your life, so finding the right office and making sure it’s the right place is extremely important.”
Preparing your child for a visit
Because going to the doctor’s office can be overwhelming for your child — and possibly for you, too — time spent preparing will go a long way to increasing everyone’s comfort level.
“Talk with your child about what to expect. They’ll have their temperature taken and their heart listened to, they’ll be measured and weighed. Maybe they’ll have their blood pressure taken,” Dr. Youngman says.
A play doctor kit is a great tool for helping your child process their upcoming visit, and if they can practice weighing and measuring a doll or teddy bear, all the better, says Dr. Youngman.
“Sometimes, children will even bring their doll or teddy with them so we can listen to teddy’s heart or look in their ears,” he says.
Wayne Pediatrics, home to Wayne State University Department of Pediatrics faculty physicians, provides a wealth of resources dedicated to children’s care at one location. This includes pediatric generalists and specialists as well as dietitians, psychologists, social workers and a diabetes educator. Visit waynepediatrics.org or call 313-448-4600 to make an appointment.