Children are amazing and they deserve amazing people to look after them

Nick Schindler, an ST5 based in the East of England, explains why he chose to pursue a career in paediatrics.

Children and young people come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the people who work with them.

Why did you choose general paediatrics?

I have always loved the variety that medicine has to offer, and paediatrics is a fantastic specialty to be a generalist in. Paediatricians see and manage a wider range of conditions than almost any other hospital specialty. From premature babies in intensive care to 15 year olds with chronic conditions, we do a bit of everything.  

Children and young people come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the people who work with them. I regularly work with parents, teachers, play therapists and just about any healthcare professional you can think of. As a paediatrician, you are never on your own. No two days at work are alike and that keeps my job interesting and motivating. 

Most general paediatricians will also develop a sub-specialty interest. Mine is neurology. The advantage of the generalist is that you can pick up more than one interest at a time or even change interests later if you want to. What other profession lets you do that?

What is paediatric training like?

In my experience, paediatric training is extremely well supported. There is always a registrar on hand and it is common to see the consultant at all hours of the day. This lends itself to some great learning opportunities while never leaving you to make decisions alone or perform a procedure that you are uncomfortable with. 

There is arguably no issue in modern life that doesn’t impact on child health in some way and our training reflects that. Paediatric trainees are actively encouraged to explore ideas, gain new experiences and share them with colleagues. I’ve been on placements in Africa and worked at music festivals - you can do literally anything!

What is your work life balance like?

Out of hours support in paediatrics is second to none but this does come at the cost of a diverse rota, even for the consultants. You should go into paediatric training with your eyes open to this. That said, work isn’t everything and we are great at celebrating free time too. 

More than half of paediatric trainees are female and working less than full time is common practice for men and women. Trainees are actively supported to ensure work fits around life and not just the other way around. Support and understanding at work is vital, particularly when you have a young family, and no one understands young children like people who work with them every day. 

Do you have any advice for medical students or doctors interested in paediatric training? 

Paediatric experience is often limited for medical students and foundation doctors, so if you are thinking of applying you should ask to spend some time with your local department.

Children are amazing and they deserve amazing people to look after them. General paediatrics demands a lot of you but it gives huge amounts in return. If you like variety in all things then this might be the job for you.