With so many different kinds of doctors and medical practices out there, finding the best care for your little ones can be a challenge. One thing that’s clear, however, is that parents with young children prefer to establish a steady relationship with a doctor. They want someone who knows their child’s medical history, and with whom the child can develop a level of trust and comfort.
The decision to establish this relationship with a pediatrician or family doctor is one of the most common choices parents face. Many parents aren’t entirely certain about the difference between the two, so in order to help you make a more informed choice, here are a few things to consider when choosing between pediatricians and family doctors.
Pediatricians and family doctors have both gone through comprehensive training at medical school. Both have attained the high standard of knowledge required to become a practicing medical doctor in the United States.
Upon completion of medical school, both groups begin a three-year residency in which they build their practical knowledge in one area of specialty. Pediatricians focus exclusively on caring for children during this time, while family doctors develop a broader ability to treat families and people of all ages.
2. Depth of Knowledge
As a result of their narrower focus, Pediatricians have a deeper understanding of development and health issues that pertain specifically to children and adolescents. They’re likely to be well-read on current research and new developments in the field, and pay more attention to the finer points of a child’s health and growth.
Family doctors are certainly qualified to treat children, but since they routinely see patients of all ages, they seldom have the same depth of knowledge concerning children specifically. They generally take a more general approach on your child’s health.
3. Care Into Adulthood
One possible advantage to choosing a family doctor for your child is that family doctors can potentially stay in your child’s life through adolescence and into adulthood. A pediatrician can provide specialized care for children from birth through adolescence, but as adults, your children will need to establish a relationship with a family practitioner, or another specialist who can provide the medical care they need.
Pediatricians have excellent referral networks for transitioning young adults to the care of other doctors, but if it’s important to you that your child’s doctor can provide care into adulthood, a family doctor is a valid consideration.
Since family doctors have a broader focus, and are experienced with patients of all ages, they do offer a high level of convenience and intimacy for families. A family doctor often knows the medical histories of multiple members of the family, and visits to the doctor can often be consolidated.
Since the medical practice of a pediatrician is entirely dedicated to children, adult family members will need to make appointments with other doctors, and in some cases visit other medical offices.
Making Your Decision
It’s up to every parent to decide whether a family doctor or pediatrician is right for their child, and the four factors listed here are a good place to start. Remember—any qualified pediatrician or family doctor should be candid about what they think is best from a medical and developmental perspective. So once you’ve taken the leap and made an appointment, it’s good to voice concerns and get feedback from the doctor, as well as other parents and medical professionals.
Has this post been helpful in understanding the difference between pediatricians and family doctors? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave questions or comments in the space below.