Beyond the Checkup: The many Faces of Your Pediatrician 2011

A few years ago, I treated an adorable 6 month old infant girl in the ER for a cold.  The EMR (electronic medical record) highlighted that the family had recently been to the ER for a variety of other common complaints: diaper rashes, colic, sleep and breastfeeding problems – all issues that could have been handled in any pediatric office.

As this visit concluded, I mentioned that their pediatrician could help them with further issues.  The baby’s mother looked perplexed.  “We have an appointment tomorrow with her pediatrician but that’s for shots and measurements,” she mentioned.  That was my light-bulb moment with this family – they truly did not understand the full role of their pediatrician in their daughter’s life.  And, they are not alone.

People trek to emergency rooms for a variety of reasons:

  • They are having a true emergencies or need urgent care after hours
  • They are visiting the area and require medical care
  • They falsely believe they will be seen quicker than calling their own doctor
  • They don’t truly understand all the services their doctor’s office offers

Emergency rooms do treat all comers but the sickest get seen first and there is always a wait, in fact 4-6 hour on average.   Visiting the ER for simple matters instead of your primary care physician is like calling a repairman if your TV remote stops working. For a child, there are a few disadvantages to ER visits. The wait time can be very difficult for kids and lack of familiarity with the setting and staff disarming.  Luckily, most ERs are much more child-friendly than in the past but it is still a more intense experience for a child than visiting their own pediatrician.

Pediatricians are trained in the complete child – sickness and health. Knowing what your pediatrician is trained to offer you can help considerably in knowing what to do after-hours and in feeling comfortable with an ER visit should it be needed. Here’s an A to Z guide of the myriad of areas your pediatrician can help with for your kids:

a.     Anticipatory Guidance (informing you and your child of what’s to come next)

b.     Bullying (and cyberbullying): helping the bully and the victim

c.     Cell Phones and Computers: The Internet, Facebook, cyberbullying, sexting and everything else our kids and teens are doing with online and mobile technologies.

d.     Drugs and Alcohol Abuse: finding help and support.

e.     Eating and feeding issue – including eating disorders

f.      Fever and sick symptoms – sore throats, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, ear aches, cough, and runny nose – and just about every sick symptom you can think of!

g.     Growth and development

h.     Hearing issues, Headaches

i.      Immunizations (shots)

j.      Journal articles and web sites to help you learn more about your child’s condition

k.     Kid-specific issues for all ages

l.      Laceration repair and suture removal

m.    Monitoring medical problems – new and chronic

n.     Negotiating the world of specialists – including the ER

o.     Orthopedic issues including injury treatment and sports participation

p.     Potty-Training and Puberty

q.     Queries about anything worrying you about your child

r.      Rashes

s.      School issues; Sexuality

t.      Travel advice

u.     Use of new technologies

v.     Vision issues

w.    Weight issues – too little, too much and eating disorders

x.     X-ray ordering (including acute injuries!)

y.     Your concerns about your child

z.     Zeroing in on what’s really important – our kids!


I bolded the new additions to the list since I first created it in 2006:  bullying and technology. Our world keeps evolving and as it does, so, too, does the role of the pediatrician in your kids’ lives. Anything your kids do that involves their growth and health, in either a positive or negative way, your pediatrician is there to help you with. And, as the person trained in the total child, is your best guide should an issue arise that puts your child’s health at risk.


So, if any issue arises with your child, think “call the pediatrician”. You’ll never go wrong by starting there, even if technology is concerned.


(Originally posted August 2006; Updated August 2011)