When your baby was born, you will probably took him or her to a pediatrician for care. As your kids get older and start to transition to the teen years, you may be wondering if a pediatrician is still the best fit for your child’s care.
According to adolescent medicine physician, Dr. Elizabeth Mason, in addition to a 3-year pediatric residency, adolescent medicine physicians also complete an additional 3-year fellowship in adolescent medicine.
“This additional training requires completion of research and provides further education on adolescent specific topics like eating disorders, gynecology and contraception, gender diversity, and general growth and development during these transitional years,” she said.
While adolescents still require significant guidance, it’s usually around different topics than the younger pediatric population.
“Some of these topics may not be as easy to talk about for patients, providers, or parents – such as safety around sex, peer pressure and drug use,” said Dr. Mason. “Since these are topics that are very important to us as adolescent medicine providers, we feel comfortable discussing them regularly.”
Adolescent medicine providers, like pediatricians, also serve as primary care providers and offer both preventive and sick care.
“Even teens need to have their growth and development monitored while continuing to review preventative care topics,” said Dr. Mason. “We make sure they’ve received all their immunizations and can also screen for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary.”
Adolescent patients are encouraged to participate in their appointments by answering questions and knowing their medications and medical history.
“By giving them the chance to practice these skills, they will be better able to manage their health care as they get older and eventually transition to an adult provider,” said Dr. Mason.
Another important difference between pediatrics and adolescent medicine is the age at which patients transition out of their care.
“We can see patients until they turn 25 and can help transition them into the adult medicine world,” said Dr. Mason. “Most pediatricians will transition kids at age 18.”
Parents and guardians can attend appointments with their teens or young adults but may be asked to step out for a portion of the appointment to give teens time to talk with their provider alone.
“We want to give them the opportunity to talk about topics that may be difficult to discuss in front of their parents as well as practice the skills of managing their health care,” said Dr. Mason. “Adolescents have the right to confidential care, but if there is concern for safety, then it is no longer considered confidential, and a parent will be informed of the concerns.”
The Adolescent Medicine department at Akron Children’s also employs general pediatricians and nurse practitioners who are interested in providing care to adolescents. Dr. Mason says in the end, people should go with a provider who makes their child feel comfortable.
“Many pediatricians are very comfortable working with adolescents and have a great rapport with their patients, so there may be no need to switch,” she said. “If you have concerns regarding eating disorders, menstrual management, or gender diversity I would definitely recommend looking into our adolescent clinic.”
To find a pediatrician or adolescent medicine provider for your child, visit akronchildrens.org/cgi-bin/providers/new_find_a_provider.pl.