Sunday, November 23, 2008

I could never be a pediatrician...

When I was first starting med school, I was Peds Girl. I was joined the Peds Club, I helped organize Peds Playroom in the hospital, and I loved kids. I was fiercely insistent on my future career choice.

Professor (who was also an orthopedic surgeon): "So what field do YOU want to do?"

Me: "Pediatrics."

Prof: "Christ, what a waste. You may as well become a veterinarian."

Me: "Um."

Prof: "You know you won't make any money in general peds."

Me: "I may specialize in pediatric endocrinology."

Prof: "They make even LESS."

Actually, I think if you do pediatric endocrinology, instead of getting a paycheck, they remove money from your bank account each month. So you really have to love it.

In planning my third year schedule, I took peds as my third rotation. If there's a specialty you think you really want to do, you're supposed to do it third. That way, you can decide early on if it's really for you, but it's not so early in the year that you're still a bumbling idiot.

Long story short, I'm not a pediatrician. I could say I hated the parents or that I had trouble looking in tiny ears, but really, it was that I couldn't deal with the sick kids... I mean, the REALLY sick kids. There was nothing more heartbreaking to me than an ill child. Even reading a fictional clinical vignette about a child with cancer ruined my day. It didn't matter to me that I was helping them or even saving their lives... I just couldn't bear it.

And now that I have a child, I am doubly glad that I made this decision. Every time I pass the peds floor in the hospital and hear children crying, I think of my daughter and my heart aches. Maybe I would have grown accustomed to it. I don't know. I'm grateful other doctors are able to distance themselves enough that they can do this kind of work.

Luckily, sick adults don't make me nearly as sad.


  1. I hated the pediatric rotation as a nursing student...for this very reason. I was assigned to a 16 month old HIV positive little daughter was about 18 months at the time...I had a really tough time with that assignment.

    I love being a CNM...its the 'happy' specialty ( most of the time). I've just never been one for 'sick' people.

  2. I also was sure that I was going to do pediatrics. Even after my third year I was pretty sure. But after subsequent rotations spent in pediatrics, I decided I couldn't do it. I liked working with the parents, I liked seeing kids get better. But the ones that weren't going to were too much.

    Also, I hated spending more time with other people's children than I was with my own.

  3. I'm Med/Peds. So I do adults and children. And I definitely prefer the children, even their (at times) psycho parents. It can be very difficult. For me, it's not the sick kids, it's the ones whose parents don't care. But I generally feel I can make a difference. I'm seriously considering giving up the adult side. And like you, Fizzy, thank G-d that other people are willing to be adult doctors.

  4. ME TOO!! I was always great with kids - everyone KNEW I was going to go into peds. THEN I hit the med school rotation and HATED IT. Crying kids that ran when they saw you - NO WAY. Now pedi ANESTHESIA - now you're talking - you're the funny gal wearing the bright zoo animal hat and the giggly fun medicine (versed) that can get rid of that awful pain better than the floor (anesthesiologists are much more likely to give MORE narcotic since we're more comfortable supporting the airway if there's a problem!). And parents LOVE you because you're the "mom" in the OR - making sure their kid is asleep and dreaming good dreams while the surgeon fixes the problem!! Now we're talking!!

  5. "You may as well become a veterinarian". Good grief.


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