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The Kid’s Doctor: Pediatricians enjoy treating patients who are well past childhood

I was reading the Wall Street Journal one morning when I saw an interesting article titled, “Young Adults Find it Hard to Part From the Pediatrician.”

After being in practice for 25 years, this headline caught my eye, and as it happened to be my day off, I took my time reading the story. Then, while I was still drinking my latte and reading the paper, I received a handful of emails with a link to the story – most from the mothers of young adults I still care for!

It also must have been a coincidence that I received a voicemail the same day from a young adult patient, age 26, who wanted to schedule a checkup, but was concerned that my first available appointment was not for another month. Her message made me laugh, as she said she was busy with “work” when I had an available appointment.

I’m flattered that this young woman is comfortable seeing me, but I tease such “adult” patients, when I say to them, “You know, it’s time to move on to an adult doctor when you have your own job and health insurance.”

After reading the WSJ article, I have to agree with so many of the doctors quoted. Who better to take your phone call from college or discuss sensitive issues related to sexuality than the pediatrician who’s taken care of you since birth?

I feel a sense of pride that I know my patients almost as well as my own children because they’ve grown up under my care. This is one of the privileges of being a pediatrician – watching that newborn baby grow and mature into an adult, as well as helping with the bumps and bruises along the way.

When a child has seen the same doctor for 20 years, all the while having watched the fish in the office aquarium grow older and the rocking horse in the waiting room reupholstered four times, I certainly hope the patient is comfortable talking to his or her pediatrician.

Sure, there are times when adolescent patients are more talkative than others, and there are days when you feel you’re not “connecting,” but there also are the moments when they hug you and say you’re cool or you understand them, when they call on their own to make appointments, or they leave you a message to let you know where they’ve been accepted to college. Those times are memorable!

Pediatricians are typically more available than other physicians for a visit on short notice while a young person is home from college, or will return calls to a child’s cellphone. They’re often available in the evening or on Saturdays for appointments, and keep this age group from using an ER as their primary doctor.

Pediatricians also stay abreast of the vaccinations teens/young adults may need for school and travel.

All in all, this really is the perfect job! The best thing about pediatrics is watching each child mature, getting the privilege of filling out their college health form, and eventually attending their wedding. It gets even better when they start bringing their babies back to you (I call them all my grandbabies). The circle of life is a wonderful thing and keeps pediatricians practicing!

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at kidsdr.com.