General pediatricians have an important role in the healthcare team. They provide medical care to infants, children and adolescents, up to the age of 21. Many general pediatricians choose to do further study in a subspecialty of pediatrics to gain specific knowledge about a certain area of children’s health.
The training and residency requirements may differ slightly for each subspecialty. However, all require the completion of medical school and residency, in addition to education and residency in the field of pediatrics, before commencing training for the subspecialty.
All pediatricians, including both general pediatricians and those with a subspecialty, will work with young people and their families to prevent and manage childhood illness. Several of the subspecialties of pediatrics are covered in more detail below. Note, however, that there are other subspecialties beyond this list.
Adolescent pediatricians work primarily with young people who have conditions that commonly affect this age group. These include mental health issues, eating disorders, growth disorders and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Cardiology pediatricians work with infants and children who have a congenital cardiac defect or a heart condition developed in childhood. This may include children with a heart murmur, heart valve disorders and cardiac rhythm disturbances.
Child abuse pediatricians work with children who have been neglected or are victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. They can help in the diagnosis and medical care of health conditions related to the neglect or abuse, such as malnutrition or psychological disorders.
A critical care pediatrician, also known as a pediatric intensivist, helps in the diagnosis and treatment of children with critical illnesses. This may include a great range of health conditions, including respiratory failure, septic infections and severe physical injuries. For this reason, critical care pediatricians are trained in a variety of treatment methods with an emphasis on careful monitoring to help make appropriate medical decisions.
Endocrinology pediatricians are responsible for the diagnosis and management of children with metabolic or hormonal disorders. This may include children who are overweight or have diabetes, hormonal growth disorders or abnormal function of the pituitary gland.
Gastroenterology pediatricians may diagnose and provide medical care for children and adolescents with disorders of the digestive system. These may include conditions such as gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pancreatitis.
Hematology or Oncology
Pediatric hematologists and oncologists work with children who are affected by leukemia, brain tumors, osteosarcoma and other disorders of the blood. They have an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.
Neonatal pediatricians are primarily responsible for the care of premature and critically ill newborns, and may also be involved in the diagnosis of some conditions during pregnancy. They may participate in the delivery of infants that are considered to be at high-risk so as to help provide immediate care after birth. For example, they may help in the diagnosis and treatment of congenital abnormalities and cardiac conditions in newborn babies.
Pulmonology pediatricians diagnose and provide care to children with health conditions that involve the respiratory system, such as cystic fibrosis, asthma and pneumonia.
Rheumatology pediatricians work with children who have a disorder of the joints or bones. For example, they may diagnose and manage children and adolescents who are affected by vasculitis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD