Pursing a career as a doctor in neonatal/perinatal medicine offers a wide variety of options when you consider the different concerns neonates may face. In addition to working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), many doctors are specially trained to handle the delicate tasks of surgery and anesthesiology for some of the most vulnerable patients.
Neonatology is a subspecialty within pediatrics that focuses on the care of babies after they are born. Typically, these babies are premature or may be full-term, but have minor to serious conditions that warrant specialized care. To become a neonatologist, you must complete a residency in pediatrics, which is approximately three years. After completion of your pediatrics residency, you will need a fellowship in neonatology. Generally, neonatologists work exclusively in the hospital setting, but some may have a separate, private office. Some conditions that may occur in babies might be known before birth or expected because the pregnancy is high-risk, such as the case of multiple births or known genetic abnormalities.
Babies can be born with a host of different problems that require surgical intervention. In some cases, surgery is performed before birth. There are several avenues to becoming a perinatal/neonatal surgeon, which can depend on the fellowship program you choose and whether you want more specialized training. Becoming a perinatal/neonatal surgeon requires completion of a general surgery residency, which takes approximately five years to complete. After completion, surgeons will choose a fellowship in pediatric surgery, which will have rotations in perinatal/neonatal surgery. For additional training, pediatric surgeons might choose an additional fellowship specifically for perinatal/neonatal surgery, especially if they want to exclusively work in this subspecialty and/or work in hospitals that focus exclusively on neonatology.
Medical students who want to work in the field of neonatology may overlook other specialties that are critical to caring for neonates, especially those with serious conditions. Handling such small patients requires great care to make sure proper anesthesia is given for different types of surgical procedures. Additionally, anesthesiologists are usually the medical personnel who handle airway concerns for babies with underdeveloped lungs or otherwise cannot breathe on their own. Other procedures that may be handled by the anesthesiologist are pain management, sedation, and central lines. An anesthesiology residency generally requires four years of training. Upon completion, an anesthesiologist would enter a fellowship program to specialize in pediatric anesthesiology, which includes training on handling neonate cases.
There are many opportunities in medicine that involve neonatology, beyond becoming a neonatologist. Other specialty areas, such as surgery and anesthesiology, are just a few related fields that are necessary to care for seriously ill babies. Contact a company, like Kidz Medical Services, for more help.