About the profession
A common adage in the medical field is that ‘children are not simply little adults.’ In other words, there are significant differences between treating adults and children.
The smaller body size and less mature internal organs of an infant or child are physiologically substantially different. Congenital deficiencies or defects, infectious diseases, developmental issues, rare diseases, … are very specific to young patients.
A pediatrician’s interpretation of symptoms, diagnosis, procedures and prescribing of medications or other treatments are all influenced by the (developmental) age of the patient and the health literacy of its parents.
The fact that the pediatrician’s patients often cannot independently advocate or make decisions adds another aspect to pediatric practice: that of communicating with parents and family and considering the concerns of potentially many people, not only the patient.
Therefore paediatrics requires a very specific training and specific competencies.
Children shall be admitted to hospital only if the care they require cannot be equally well provided at home or on a day basis.
Children in hospital shall have the right to have their parents or parent substitute with them at all times.
(3.1) Accommodation should be offered to all parents and they should be helped and encouraged to stay.
(3.2) Parents should not need to incur additional costs or suffer loss of income.
(3.3) In order to share in the care of their child, parents should be kept informed about ward routine and their active participation encouraged.
(4.1) Children and parents shall have the right to be informed in a manner appropriate to age and understanding.
(4.2) Steps should be taken to mitigate physical and emotional stress.
(5.1) Children and parents have the right to informed participation in all decisions involving their health care.
(5.2) Every child shall be protected from unnecessary medical treatment and investigation.
(6.1) Children shall be cared for together with children who have the same developmental needs and shall not be admitted to adult wards.
(6.2) There should be no age restrictions for visitors to children in hospital.
Children shall have full opportunity for play, recreation and education suited to their age and condition and shall be in an environment designed, furnished, staffed and equipped to meet their needs.
Children shall be cared for by staff whose training and skills enable them to respond to the physical, emotional and developmental needs of children and families.
Continuity of care should be ensured by the team caring for children.
Children shall be treated with tact and understanding and their privacy shall be respected at all times.
In Belgium, 1573 paediatricians are committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
Paediatricians need a particularly flexible profile: they switch quickly between the various maternity, emergency, paediatric, obstetric and outpatient departments covering the whole spectrum of both very acute and chronic care, preventive as well as curative care, sometimes very general but mostly very specific care, in a population ranging from premature babies to adolescents and young adults.
We need a sufficient number of appropriately trained primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists to provide optimal care to all children.