You’re not the first person to wonder what life is like with a stethoscope dangling around your neck or what it’s like getting to wear the white coat each day. How does it feel to park in the doctors’ lot and go home at the end of the day knowing you played an intrinsic role in saving lives?
You’ve wondered about daily life in the medical field because you’re interested in becoming a doctor. But you don’t want to become just any doctor — you want to be a pediatrician, working to help babies, children, and teens stay healthy.
Before you decide to pursue this primary care path, it would be wise to learn more about the career and what actually happens on a daily basis. Becoming a doctor is a long journey, and you want to be sure that you’re making the best choice for your professional goals.
If you’re seeking a look at a day in the life of a pediatrician, you’ve come to the right place. We spoke with Dr. Don Williams, a practicing pediatrician, to learn what really goes into a day’s work. Keep reading to see what his typical schedule is like.
A day in the life of a pediatrician
Dr. Williams doesn’t just take care of children as a pediatrician — he’s also a father. He begins a typical day by dropping his daughter off at school. He then heads over to Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, where he works as a hospital-based pediatrician.
Dr. Williams arrives at the hospital and his workday begins. He starts by talking with the physicians who took care of the pediatric patients overnight. This is called “signout,” as one doctor passes the torch of patient oversight to another.
The signout discussion provides Dr. Williams with updates about his patients. During this time there’s also usually an education conference, or patient care conference, with case managers. These care meetings help ensure everyone on the health care team is on the same page in regards to patient needs.
These care meetings help ensure everyone on the health care team is on the same page in regards to patient needs.
After the initial updates, Dr. Williams begins making his morning rounds. He checks in with patients and their families, and he spends time talking with them.
Dr. Williams works with patients ranging from babies to teenagers. He says he frequently sees cases of bronchiolitis, also known as a chest cold, as well as patients experiencing asthma attacks, and an array of other illnesses. Sometimes he sees children with infections of the bones, joints, or urinary tract. He may also see children with genetic disorders or prematurity. There’s truly no typical day.
He doesn’t just interact with patients and their families — Dr. Williams interacts with residents and medical students as well. They accompany him as he goes on his rounds, so his days are filled with teaching and supervising as well. Rounds typically last until around 11:30 am.
Rounds typically last until around 11:30 am.
Following rounds, Dr. Williams rounds up some lunch. Sometimes he eats with colleagues in the doctors’ dining room, which is his chance to socialize with his peers. He also points out that there’s a fair amount of work that’s accomplished during the lunch period. Sometimes there are lunchtime educational conferences, and sometimes he and other physicians will end up doing informal conferencing.
Dr. Williams’ afternoons start with finishing up notes from the morning rounds. His residents will write up notes on their patients, and Dr. Williams reviews them for accuracy. He also contributes an addendum to support the residents’ writings.
Afternoons are also spent working in a teaching center. When students and new physicians need to be evaluated, Dr. Williams reviews their performance and provides feedback on a variety of tasks, such as how they are seeing their patients and how they are writing their notes.
He also points out that working at a hospital involves some business knowledge. Dr. Williams serves on a few committees at the hospital, including the Pediatric Leadership Board, which comprises elected physician representatives that set strategies for the hospital. They examine how to best serve their young patients and maintain the hospital's market share and financial health.
“Sometime between 3 and 4 pm I meet with the person who is going to be covering the patients for the evening,” Dr. Williams says.
"Sometime between 3 and 4 pm I meet with the person who is going to be covering the patients for the evening."
During this signout, Dr. Williams tells the incoming physician about the patients. He gets them up to speed with the patients’ cases and any concerns he may have. The physician coming in will work overnight at the hospital, which is staffed 24 hours a day. Dr. Williams explains that this is not always the case for pediatricians — they sometimes take calls from home.
After signout, Dr. Williams heads home to his family, usually leaving the hospital sometime between 4 or 5 pm. But sometimes, Dr. Williams is the one working the evening and overnight shift. In that case, his day is just beginning. Either way, Dr. Williams finds his career as a pediatrician fulfilling and rewarding.
“You hear a lot of stories about physicians finding their job to be a drag or not what they expected it to be, but I don’t feel that way,” Dr. Williams says. He thinks his role is one of the reasons he’s avoided burnout. “Working in pediatrics provides lots of opportunities to have heartwarming interactions with kids. I think it keeps us from getting too jaded.”
"Working in pediatrics provides lots of opportunities to have heartwarming interactions with kids."
All in a day’s work
Now that you know what a day in the life of a pediatrician is like, does this sound like something you want to dedicate your life to? Do you still think you have what it takes to care for the littlest patients in the hospital?
If you think you’re cut out for a career in medicine, make sure you know about some of the unexpected aspects of becoming a doctor. Learn more by checking out our article, “Doctors Reveal 12 Things No One Tells You About Pursuing a Career in Medicine.”
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