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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Professional Parent?

As a pediatrician I am exposed to many different parents and parenting styles.  And there are many patients that are seen in pediatric offices for parenting/behavioral issues that are not necessarily strictly "medical" in nature.  So, are pediatricians actually professional parents?

As a mother, I frequently find myself in a conversation with friends about everyday parenting issues and frequently someone will say...oh...you're a pediatrician...you'll know what to do. So bring it on. 

These inquiries usually come in two forms.  The first is the... umm...hi how are you....I think that ____ has an ear infection because he has a fever and is pulling on his ear and can I just bring him over for a quick second to get him looked at?  This is an easy yes or no answer. Great.

The second type of inquiry is the harder one.  Its my best friend calling everyday with an update on her almost 2 year old who is not sleeping and wanting my take on the situation.  Or a mommy friend who wants to know what to do when her daughter isn't nice to a friend on a play date.  Or a coworker who wants help with her newborn who is fussy and spitting up.  It's not that I mind the questions, I actually like them, because I love talking and thinking and blogging about parenting and all its perils and pitfalls.  I love the discussion, I just don't have all the answers.

Let's just start with a background of pediatric training.  Pediatricians go to 4 years of medical school and then do a minimum of 3 years of residency training in pediatrics.  Many medical students come right from college and are 21 when they start medical school.  Most pediatric residents don't have children before residency, and some even delay starting a family until after their training is done due to the long hours required to do the job well.  So, most residents do NOT have their own children during their formal training.  Before I was a mom, I could catheterize a child, intubate an infant, and stop a seizure in an adolescent; but had never bathed a baby.

During residency, we see many sick kids in many different settings.  We see kids in the hospital, in the clinic, in the emergency room, in the delivery room.  We learn about all sorts of childhood diseases from rashes to leukemia and everything in between.  This includes some focus on developmental and behavioral pediatrics, but the majority of focus in a resident's training is on childhood DISEASE.  Pediatricians are well versed in recognizing red flags and ABNORMALITIES in child development.  That is the easy part (well, relatively anyway).  There are algorithms and recommendations to follow for these types of children.  There are specialists that provide support.  There is testing that can be done.

Luckily, however, these cases are fewer and more far between.  The vast majority of our day (luckily) is spent with healthy kids with minor problems.  Minor problems on the medical spectrum.  However, sometimes even a minor problem can become a major problem to a frustrated and overwhelmed parent.  And we have all been there.  And not surprisingly, most pediatricians are not their own child's doctor because we are like you.  We get frazzled when are child is sick even if it is not serious.  We may not want to give (administer) our own children shots.  We find it difficult to be OBJECTIVE when it comes to our own kids.  But someone else's kids...we got that covered.

Seeing patients give us many opportunities to talk about parenting, get ideas from parents, contribute to these ideas with our own knowledge, and pass this message off to other parents with similar issues.  We can suggest better ways to give eye drops or antibiotics because someone has tried it before and it worked.  And over time, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of patients, our message becomes better, more clear, and we begin to excel at our job. Which is treating OTHER people's children.

So, am I am professional parent?  Am I better than anyone else at this job, which is harder than any other and comes with no instruction manual?  Am I different than any of the other moms out there, questioning the important decisions in my children's lives, not knowing the results?  Do my children listen to me when I tell them to eat their vegetables?

The answer is no.  I am not a professional parent.  I am a mommy like all the other mommies out there.  Trying to do what is in the best interest of my kids.  With some perks along the way.  I know what do to when my kids are sick and when they can return to school.  I know what, how much and when to give medications.  I know when to worry and when to panic.  At least about my patients.   My children only occasionally eat vegetables when I ask them to. And they have their own doctor.  And if she tells them to eat their veggies because it will make them strong and healthy, they will likely listen.

I am a professional Pediatrician (and Internist, BTW).  But I, like all mommies, remain a Parent in Training.

14 comments:

Storkdok said...

Well said! I got asked a lot of questions about babies that I had no clue about as an OB/GYN. My standard answer was that I didn't know because I handed the baby over to the pediatrician and hugged the placenta! I know a little more now as a mother, but it is very specific to my kids, and there is so much variation in children.

Nice blog!

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