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What do paediatricians do?

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Paediatricians are medical specialists who diagnose, treat and provide medical care for babies, children and teenagers.
  • Paediatricians treat your child’s illnesses, as well as assess their physical, mental and behavioural development.
  • Paediatricians work in the community as well as in public and private hospitals.
  • If your child needs assessment or treatment by a paediatrician, your GP or obstetrician can refer you.
  • Costs vary widely, so ask about costs before your child sees the paediatrician or receives treatment.

What is a paediatrician?

Paediatricians are medical specialists who diagnose, treat, and provide medical care for babies, children and teenagers. They treat illnesses and will check your child’s physical, mental and behavioural development.

What training does a paediatrician have?

In Australia, paediatricians need to complete at least 6 years of full-time training after they become a doctor.

  • paediatric emergency medicine
  • neonatal and perinatal medicine, focusing on the fetus and on premature and newborn babies
  • developmental and behavioural paediatrics
  • paediatric cardiology, focusing on heart conditions

What conditions do paediatricians treat?

Paediatricians treat a wide range of illnesses, injuries and conditions. They often examine and treat babies immediately after birth. They often examine and treat babies immediately after birth. They can assess and, if necessary, resuscitate newborns, and manage treatment of premature babies.

Paediatricians treat babies, children and teenagers with:

Where do paediatricians work?

Paediatricians see children in a treatment centre, clinic or in a community health centre. Many work in public and private children's hospitals, and treat babies in maternity units, special care baby units and neonatal intensive care units. Some paediatricians work in the hospital emergency department.

They often work as part of a multidisciplinary team. These teams may also include doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals.

How do I choose a paediatrician?

Ask your GP or obstetrician to refer you to a suitable paediatrician. For some disorders, your child will need to be seen by a paediatrician who has sub-specialised in a particular area.

Unless the matter is urgent, you may have a long wait before you can get an appointment with a paediatrician for your child.

If you prefer to see a specific paediatrician (for example, if they treat one of your other children, or if they are recommended to you by family or friends) discuss this with your GP, and they can arrange a referral.

When should I see a paediatrician?

Your GP can manage most common childhood illnesses, but may refer you to a paediatrician for specialist care of more complex health conditions. Your GP will first assess your child and refer you to an appropriate paediatrician, if required.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder to help you form a list of questions to ask your GP or paediatrician. You can print this off and take it with you to your appointment.

How much will it cost to see a paediatrician?

Paediatricians' fees vary a lot, depending on:

Out-of-hospital care

If you see a paediatrician in their rooms, Medicare will cover:

  • all of the costs if they bulk bill
  • some of the costs if they don't bulk bill

You can't use private health insurance for out-of-hospital care.

If you visit a paediatrician out of hospital without a referral from a GP, Medicare will not cover the costs.

Treatment in a public hospital using Medicare

If your child is treated in a public hospital or clinic and you use Medicare, it will be free. Medicare will cover all the costs.

Treatment in any hospital using private health insurance

If you use private health insurance for treatment in either a public hospital or a private hospital or clinic, you will be charged by the paediatrician and by the hospital.

You might also be charged for pathology test, x-rays and other forms of imaging, and by other doctors you see. Your private health insurance may cover some of these costs.

Asking about costs

It can be expensive to see specialists, including paediatricians.

Before you go for your first appointment, it’s a good idea ask the paediatrician or their staff about the costs. You can also ask what Medicare will and will not cover.

If you plan to use private health insurance, you can also contact your health fund.

Resources and support

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

You can read the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s flyer on doctor’s bills.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

This information was originally published on healthdirect - What do paediatricians do?.

Last reviewed: February 2023

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