As a young girl, I loved to spend my Saturdays playing “school”. I would line my dolls and stuffed animals up on our back porch, and teach them all lessons using a play chalkboard and school supplies. I could play for hours. My mom was convinced I’d be a teacher when I grew up – and I was kind of convinced too. I was never really interested in medicine, even though I was exposed at a young age. My mom and aunts have been Geriatric nurses for decades. So most of the medicine I was exposed to involved nursing homes, which really turned me off as a kid. My dad was a Respiratory Therapist in the PICU for decades, too, and his horror stories scared me.
I was actually very interested in both dance and teaching, and was in the Dance Magnet Program in Middle School. I loved performing, but didn’t think I’d make a career out of it. Then came time to think about my high school choice. I was encouraged to apply for a Medical Magnet Program because I was told I was smart and could totally do it. I, honestly, still wasn’t sold on medicine at this point. But, boy did this program open my eyes! Volunteering at the hospital, summer research programs, and research internships during the school year were all opportunities that were opened to me after being accepted to the program. Performing research on child development really started to peek my interest in Pediatrics. But, I knew I didn’t want to be a full-time researcher. I was really drawn to medicine through my volunteer experiences in the hospital. That, plus the fact that my dad’s PICU horror stories started to become more interesting to me.
I went on to college then med school, now focused on Medicine. When it came time to choose a specialty, I was actually stuck between OB/GYN and Pediatrics. I always loved the pregnancy process, even before I had my own kids. I’m so interested in the beginning and creation of life, the development of the baby in the womb. But, I found myself drawn more to the babies after birth, not to the care of the moms. Plus, I didn’t like the GYN side of things or the hours! Pediatrics quickly became my top choice.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a love for children. I love helping them to be their best selves on a whole level – physically, emotionally, and educationally. It’s so awesome to me as a Pediatrician to be able to follow kids through their many stages, reminding them that they used to be the crying, screaming baby on the exam table. Now, they’re the too-cool tween or teen.
Although it can be tough at times, I enjoy helping parents help their kids. Many parents don’t know what they don’t know, and I’m there to help them. I have to answer a lot of tough questions, and have a lot of tough conversations. Through my experience so far, I’ve seen lots of family dynamics, and the ups and downs of so many families. From marriages to divorces, to births and deaths. Relocations, new jobs, and job losses. I get to celebrate the successes in school and athletics. The awards and 1st place trophies in competitions. Though I don’t intentionally try to gets attached to the families I care for, it’s hard not to. It’s hard to see a child and not see the “whole” child.
My tips for anyone thinking about a career in Pediatrics:
- Pay attention during medical school and residency. It’s exhausting, but you can learn so much during this time – things you’ll actually need later on!
- Make sure you get some experience working with and examining young children.
- It helps if you have your own children so that you can give your personal take, along with advice from the medical literature.
- Get to know your families, their cultures, their background.
- Learn to deal with difficult parents, but don’t stray from approved guidleines just to please parents.
- Always do what’s in the best interest of the child.
- Don’t do it for the money; do it for the love of the children.
There you have it! Although Medicine and Pediatrics weren’t always in my “heart”, I don’t regret my choice of career at all. I love making a difference in little lives and their families every single day. Plus, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I think it’s making me a better mom in the long-run!
Petra K. McEwan, MD is a Wife, Mom, and Pediatrician who strives to help fellow working wives and moms balance their many roles, while providing up-to-date info in Pediatric Medicine. In her spare time, she’s a professional boogie-wiper, boo-boo kisser, cuddler, chef, laundry connoisseur, house-cleaner, secretary, chauffeur and just about anything you can think of to her hubby and 5 kids.