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Why Pediatric Anesthesiology?

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Jennifer Lau chose the field of pediatric anesthesiology and why pediatric anesthesiology is a great field for all.

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When I started medical school I did not know what the field of anesthesiology was, let alone pediatric anesthesiology. It was the allure of free food that drew me to a special interest group meeting and changed the course of my career. I love the people, the patients, the pathology and the high acuity of the specialty. Anesthesiology residency is four years with several subspecialty doors open to you after. These pathways are each an additional year of training and many are ABA and ACGME accredited. Choices include: pain, obstetric, cardiac, critical care, regional, neuroanesthesia, and my favorite, pediatrics. It was my deep satisfaction with patient care and the patient experience that pushed me down the road of pediatric anesthesiology. 8 years later I have no regrets and I am helping to train the next generation of pediatric anesthesiologists as a program director. To this day it is a specialty that gives me so much joy and I hope to share a few reasons why.

The Top 10 Reasons I LOVE Pediatric Anesthesiology

  1. A true consultant: Pediatric anesthesiology demands a knowledge not only of challenging and unique pathology but also of the normal changing physiology of a child from pre-term baby to teenager.

  2. Fun and creativity are required work skills: Dust off your old jokes and best stories, brush up on your Pixar and Cocomelon because you have 15 mins to win over a tough and discerning audience. From Star Wars mask inductions where you simulate Po taking off in his X-wing to encouraging them to help “blow up the balloon” to go to sleep - there is endless space to exercise your creative muscles.

  3. Lifting help? I got this: Ever flipped a patient prone with one hand? I have. And I may have said “boop!” as I did it…

  4. Care for a family: You have the privilege of not only caring for a patient but a family. You have to navigate the relationships between a patient and their loved ones. Adults may be nervous about having surgery but they are truly terrified about their children having surgery. Successfully building a trusting relationship and holding the hands of a whole family is incredibly satisfying.

  5. Kids are literally the best of us: I have seen children afflicted with terrible diseases but I have never seen more strength or optimism from any other group of people. A child with cancer who had lost their hair and felt nauseous still engaged in a healthy debate over the best member of Paw Patrol. A teen who was dying still had the humor to ask me what my Patronus was. I always feel lucky to have met many of these amazing people who remind me every day why I do this.

  6. Let your OCDP fly!: Love labeling? Organizing equipment? Precision is not only appreciated in pediatric anesthesiology, it is a requirement.

  7. Variety is the spice of life: Congenital abnormalities, syndromes, and chromosome microdeletions oh my! Mother Nature is one creative lady. The breadth of unique pathophysiology that you encounter in pediatric anesthesiology is endless. If you get bored, you only have yourself to blame.

  8. Children suffer no fools: Kids are smart. They can spot an unfriendly or disingenuous person a mile away. This translates into an increased likelihood of colleagues: surgeons, nurses, techs- that are not only good at what they do but that are also truly wonderful and caring people.

  9. All things are cuter when they are small: Ever oohed over the baby-sized Nike in the shoe store? That is your whole field. A LMA #0.5 and tiny neonatal BP cuffs will put you in your happy place. 22G peripheral IVs can serve as large bore resuscitation for many of your little patients.

  10. Advocate for the most vulnerable: Children need our care, but they need our advocacy more. Children are not allowed to control so much around them- many of their decisions, their activities, and their disease. We have the opportunity to make them feel safe and comfortable. We can remind colleagues and sometimes even the parents of the child’s wishes. We can use our authority as physicians and adults to magnify the voices of our patients and include them in conversations that they are often left out of.

In the time that I have been a pediatric anesthesiologist I have also become a parent. The experience has only made me better at my job. I have even more empathy for my patients and their parents because I see myself and my children in every single one of them. I can hold the hands of fellow parents as they entrust their children to my care and make my patient’s day less scary and maybe a little magical. In pediatrics, the highs are high and the lows are so low because of the love and care a child immediately elicits. Each of these babies, children, and teens has motivated me to be the best physician that I can be. I hope that I have made you excited about pediatric anesthesiology as a possible career. It truly is the perfect mix of challenge and fun where you can really make a lasting impression on a family in need. Today I took care of a child that I had cared for when they were first diagnosed with cancer. The parents still remembered me and spoke of how grateful they were that I was there with them on that terrible day. We both teared up seeing their child doing so well after surgery and treatment… and then I got to talk about Paw Patrol.

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