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The Real Poop

Let's suppose you want to be a doctor and help people, but you're not really that big a fan of grown-ups. Boy, have we got the job for you!

Pediatricians care for and treat children's various boo-boos and ouchies. It isn't just a matter of investing in a smaller stethoscope. Children have different needs, reactions, and physiologies than fully formed adult-type people. They also lack the communication skills of (most) adults, and children can also be more sensitive and frightened of doctors and hospitals, so it takes a kind heart and a genuine love of children to make them feel at ease. Yes, it is important that you like children quite a bit, as you'll be hanging out with them (and hearing them cry) all day long. And beware the flying snotball sneezes. They're really gross.

As a pediatrician, you may work in a private practice, a children's hospital or other medical facility. You may be employed as a general pediatrician, or you may have a subspecialty, such as pediatric allergy, infectious disease, or neurology.

Of course, if you are not especially a lover of children, there are grown-up versions of all of these things, and you are probably much better suited to treating adults. You will really need to adore kids to go into this line of work, because you will have to find a way to keep it together after you get thrown up on for the fifth time in a week.

As with any job in the medical field, there are a lot of highs and lows associated with it. There may be nothing in this world more rewarding than being responsible for a sick child getting better, and to see the smile on their face and know you are the one who put it there.

On the other hand, some kids will come in to you with more than just a common cold, and you won't be able to save all of them. Are you prepared to handle this opposite end of the spectrum, in which a child may become severely ill or even die despite your better efforts? And what if they die because of your efforts? Prescribe the wrong medication, overlook a crucial warning sign, and you could have that kid's death hanging over you for the rest of your days. But, so that we don't end this paragraph on a sour note...rainbows and bunnies!

While adults understand that you have a slew of other patients to attend to, kids have to feel that you are there for them and them alone...they have to feel that comfort, that sense of being cared for wholly and completely. And you need to be able to give that to them—to make them feel that they are special. (Not that each kid isn't special, but...you know what we mean.) Therefore, not only do you need to have accumulated all that knowledge they provide you with in medical school, but you also have to be a skilled listener, communicator, and people person, and you need to be able to exercise extreme patience and consideration. You should also be able to name all of the Backyardigans.

Seeing a smile on the face of a child has to be a reward in itself because the financial rewards are pretty weak. Now that you’ve spent a bazillion dollars on medical school, the real world isn't going to love you back all that much. Pediatricians are the lowest paid of all doctors in the U.S. and most make less than UPS drivers who work overtime. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but only a slight one. However, you will love the job. And it'll likely love you back.