Choosing a qualified pediatrician or family physician is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your child. But if your child has a chronic medical condition, developmental delays or serious injury, you may need a pediatric specialist to be part of their health care team in addition to their primary care doctor.
Many pediatric specialists have completed four years in medical school plus a three-year pediatric residency. After that, they choose a specialty and spend an additional two to three years in fellowship training.
Some specialists are not initially trained as pediatricians; instead they obtain residency training in another specialty, followed by child-specific specialty training during their fellowship.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are 35 pediatric specialties, including:
When you meet with a pediatric specialist, they will review your child’s medical record, including all test results. They will likely conduct their own physical and talk with you about your child’s health concerns. In many cases, they may order additional tests to help them accurately diagnose a condition and plan a treatment approach.
The decision to involve a pediatric specialist in your child’s health care team may be straightforward, but it can also cause anxiety as you grapple with a potentially serious health concern. Asking your child’s primary care physician for a recommendation is the first step in choosing the pediatric specialist that will serve your family best. You can also talk with other parents or find online support groups to learn about specialists.
Once you’ve identified a list of potential specialists, these questions may help you determine which provider is right for you:
U.S. News and World Report recognized the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital for excellence in all pediatric subspecialties in the 2019-20 Best Children’s Hospital rankings.