Both pediatricians and family practitioners are qualified to provide health care to children – so how do you know which type of doctor you should choose?
In today’s blog post, we’ll help you understand the difference between these 2 types of doctors and what to consider to make the best decision for you and your family.
Let’s start with the basics: What’s the difference?
Some people aren’t even aware that there’s a difference between a pediatrician and a family doctor. What exactly sets them apart?
In its simplest sense, a pediatrician cares only for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults, while a family doctor provides care to the entire family – from newborns to seniors.
Pediatrician: A medical practitioner trained and specializing providing health care to children.
Family Doctor: A medical practitioner trained to provide primary health care to patients of any age.
There are also some important educational and training differences between these two types of practitioners. Take a look at our comparison chart below for a quick outline.
Comparing pediatricians and family doctors
PediatricianFamily DoctorEducation4 years of medical school4 years of medical schoolResidency3-year residency in pediatrics (the medical field focused on children and their diseases)3-year residency in a variety of medical fields3-year residency in a variety of medical fieldsTrainingTrained in child development and behaviorMay not have extensive child development trainingCertificationsCertified by the American Board of PediatricsCertified through American Board of Family MedicinePatientsAges 0-21 – infants, children, teenagers, and young adultsAll ages (roughly 10-15% children, 85-90% adults)Office EnvironmentSpecifically tailored to children & familiesMore traditional doctor’s office setting
As you can see, though pediatricians and family doctors are similar in many ways, there are some key differences. When you’re looking for the best care for your child, there are 4 important advantages of choosing a pediatrician over a family doctor.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits.
1. Focused understanding of child health issues
The most important thing to remember about pediatricians is that they’re experts in children’s health. While a family doctor may have just 6 months of pediatric training, a pediatrician has spent a minimum of 3 full years focused on the field.
Additionally, family doctors have to maintain a wide spectrum of healthcare knowledge – from pediatric to pregnant women, and adult medicine. Pediatricians focus in on just one area.
This specialization is beneficial for a number of reasons:
Easier to stay up-to-date with the latest advances in pediatric care and medicineCan quickly identify and diagnose both common and complex issuesExperience working with hundreds of patients with similar issues your child may be facing
Remember: kids aren’t just small adults – they have their own special, custom healthcare needs. If your child is born prematurely, with a birth defect, or has another unique health concern, partnering with a pediatrician will be particularly beneficial.
2. Child behavior & development
There are certain developmental and behavioral milestones a child should be making, depending on his or her age. These skills include:
Gross and fine motor functionsLanguageCognitiveSocial
A pediatrician has a deep and thorough understanding of age-appropriate milestones, and the ability to make highly accurate assessments.
Additionally, pediatricians work with children all day, they’ll have a keen eye and will catch potential issues early on. Early identification of developmental and behavioral disorders is critical to the overall health and wellbeing of your child.
In addition to catching any potential concerns, your pediatrician will be able to provide quality therapy to help support behavioral issues, such as:
Anxiety or depressionADHDRational and attachment concertsAcademic related concerns…and more
3. Ability to speak to kids at their level
You want your child to feel comfortable at at-ease at the doctor’s office. A pediatrician can help with that.
A pediatrician has hands-on experience working with children of all ages. They understand how to tailor their bedside manner to help their patients deal with the challenges or fears of visiting the dentist
Additionally, taking a child to the doctor can feel scary for parents, too! Many pediatricians take extra time to answer questions and help parents feel comfortable and confident in their child’s health and treatment options.
4. Environment geared toward children
When visiting the doctor, both child and parent comfort is key. You and your child may feel stressed or nervous about the appointment, so walking into an environment tailored towards you and your child will help relieve the tension.
Pediatrician offices and waiting rooms are child-friendly – from bright colors and visuals to offering toys, books, or other entertainment. It’s also comforting to know that if your child is upset and crying, you can attend to his or her needs in a judgment-free environment.
In addition to comfort, there’s also the confidence in knowing your pediatrician office will have all the specific equipment, medicines, and vaccines needed to offer the best care for your child.
Learn more about the pediatricians at Oregon Pediatrics
Ultimately, whether you choose a pediatrician or a family doctor will come down to the unique needs of you and your family. You should always choose what’s best for your family.
At Oregon Pediatrics, we’re proud to be your family’s partner in ensuring the health and wellbeing of your child. We offer full-service pediatric care – from newborn care, infections disease and wellness, to behavior health and developmental treatment.
Ready to find a pediatrician?
Read our guide on how to choose the best pediatrician for your family.