Different specialties, one goal – treating children right

Children, especially newborns, are generally no longer simply considered to be small adults whose treatment just needs to be “reduced”. This is why a pediatrician’s education includes several specialties because ultimately everything in terms of care comes together here.


Photo: Otto Heubner

In Germany, Otto Heubner is considered to be one of the co-founders of pediatrics.

Medical activities are normally divided into specialties. Different organs and parts of the body and sometimes even individual diseases have their own dedicated physicians: a nephrologist specializes in kidney care, the cardiologist focuses on the heart and a diabetologist takes care of patients with diabetes. General practitioners and pediatricians are generally the exception – they are the first point of contact for all diseases where the causes are often unknown at first. Two occupational groups where it is essential to see the big picture. Pediatricians face particular challenges. Initially, parents are the voice of small children but infants are not able to tell you exactly where it hurts for example. Whereas an adult might decide to directly go to an orthopedic specialist with knee pain, a baby is not able to do that. That’s why many things come together at the pediatrician’s office. Yet these experts are not able to treat all diseases or injuries.

Communication is key

Both the referral and the follow-up care of children after they have undergone surgery, for example, can raise many subsequent questions. That’s why it would be preferable if a pediatrician would also be trained in pediatric surgery. However, pediatrician training does not necessarily require this while pediatric surgeons need to study at a pediatrician’s office during their training.
Photo: Child with broken arm

Children are not small adults. Their treatment needs to take their ongoing growth into account for example. Drugs can also affect them differently though research findings are often inconclusive; © panthermedia.net/Monkeybusiness

But there are training courses that intend to close this gap. The Austrian "Li-La Licht und Lachen für kranke Kinder. Effizienz in der Medizin e.V." (English: LiLa Light and Laughter for Sick Children. Efficiency in Medicine) Association intermittently offers a training course titled "Pediatric Surgery for Pediatricians". The Association’s president Prof. Wolfgang Linhart emphasizes during an interview, "Even though pediatrics and pediatric surgery are two different specialties, they both pursue a common goal – to promote the well-being of children! The focus is on optimally treating children in a family-friendly manner and at an advanced level. This is why our training courses feature interdisciplinary issues and lectures that assist in seeing the big picture. The suggestion to constantly communicate is important because there are always new developments in both fields"

The closer the collaboration, the better

Many physicians recognize the importance of collaboration between the individual specialties. This is why there are more and more so-called ”Pediatric Centers“ where physicians (pediatric cardiologists, pediatric surgeons, pediatricians and pediatric endocrinologists) work together. In this setting, interdisciplinary communication, caring for mutual patients and communicating with parents often happens much quicker and takes less time. This ensures that children receive better medical and follow-up care.
Photo: Simone Ernst; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

Simone Ernst