While there are many specialties in the dermatological field, one of the most fun and challenging is the pediatric dermatologist. These doctors see children of all ages and help to diagnose and treat their skin issues. Because they are seeing children there are many opportunities to make the visits, treatments, and communications more fun! Some of this is out of necessity and helping children to be more relaxed, and thus better, patients. And some of it is because kids are fun and so why not join in with them. Regardless of the reason, those that are part of TSLMS and practice with kids know the truth – we have more fun in our practices day in and day out. If you are joining us at SCALE 2019 Music City then we hope you can connect with other pediatric dermatologists while you are at the meeting and you and your colleagues can bring some of that child-like joy to the rest of us.
The Practice of Pediatric Dermatology
According to the Society for Pediatric Dermatology, “A pediatric dermatologist cares for children (newborns through adolescents) with skin disorders. Pediatric dermatologists treat children in the outpatient clinic setting, but may also care for hospitalized patients. Many perform surgical procedures such as laser therapy and cutaneous surgery. Pediatric dermatologists diagnose a wide variety of skin disorders including birthmarks (vascular and pigmented), skin infections, dermatitis (atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis), melanocytic nevi (moles), genodermatoses (inherited skin disorders), acneiform eruptions, rare forms of skin cancer, drug eruptions, viral exanthems, and collagen vascular disorders.”
Across the US there is actually a shortage of these doctors, as noted by a number of medical journals and the National Institutes for Health. As noted by MDEdge Dermatology:
There are fewer than 300 board-certified pediatric dermatologists in the United States and approximately double that number of pediatric dermatology practitioners. The deficiency is glaring based on the national population alone. The US Census Bureau reported 325,719,178 individuals living in the United States (as of July 1, 2017).2 With approximately 75 million children in the United States and estimates that 22.8% of the population is younger than 18 years,3 there currently is 1 pediatric dermatologist for every 120,000 children or more.
That article was published in 2018, several years after a study that hit the news in 2015 about the state of the practice. The National Institute of Health put out a piece assessing the pediatric dermatological workforce and calling for a focused effort on growing the field. (Source). This is because there is a shortage, which means there is an incredible opportunity for doctors, nurses, and other staff to change, expand, or start practices in the field of pediatric dermatology. And while there are barriers to entry into the field, they are largely based only on knowledge – which is in reality no different than any other specialty.
This is just a little bit more complex and involved because, in the case of pediatrics, the skin is changing, evolving, and growing in a way that makes many procedures difficult and any disorders non-static. It also involves kids, who will be more nervous than many adults, but who are ready to play and have contagious fun inside of them.
Ways to Make Children More Comfortable in Pediatric Dermatology
There is a great piece put out by Michigan Health on ways to Ease Children’s Fears at the Doctors. Working together with parents, any practitioner can put these into place:
- Prepare them prior to their visit.
- Do not create fears or make jokes about the needle or any other medical procedures.
- Empty promises will backfire, so be careful not to do this.
- Use distractions including games, toys, videos and creative paintings on the walls.
- Comfort and kindness work well, as opposed to the straight-forwardness (with empathy) that works best with adults.
- Give treats and rewards at the end of the visit.
There is a reason that we see the best pediatrician and pediatric orthodontist offices outfitted like play areas, with bright colors and happy pictures. It is because it works. And while some of this diminishes as the children become teens, teens still have a lot of child inside of them and the more we can do to bring that playfulness out the better the doctor/patient relationship will be. If the patient had fun at your office they will likely be better at being a good patient, making you a better doctor.
Having Fun With Your Patients
There is no lack of serious resources outlining the benefits of adults participating in play – and there are studies that show that pediatricians are the happiest. As reported in MedScape.com,
US physicians [were asked] how happy they were with their lives outside of medicine and to rate their level of happiness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least happy and 5 being the happiest. The average happiness score for all physicians who responded was 3.96, which is on the cheerful side. Pediatricians, however, beat that score, with an average happiness score of 4.00, tying with anesthesiologists as the sixth happiest physician specialty. Clearly, the tie is not the result of similar salaries between the 2 groups. Perhaps it is just the joy of being around children?
We think it is just that; especially for those doctors who embrace the play and fun part of their practice. After al,l there is little more rewarding than making children happy and healthy while laughing and playing.