Kids Health Info

Paediatricians

  • A paediatrician is a doctor who provides specialist medical care to infants, children and adolescents. To become a paediatrician, doctors must do an extra six years of training after they finish their medical degree. There are general paediatricians and specialist paediatricians, for example, paediatric cardiologists (heart specialists), paediatric gastroenterologists (doctors specialising in the digestive system) and developmental paediatricians (specialising in early childhood development and behavioural problems). Some paediatricians work in private practice and some work in hospitals.

    Consulting a paediatrician 

    Many common childhood illnesses can be managed well by your GP. If you think your child needs to see a paediatrician, visit your GP and discuss your concerns with them first. They will assess your child and make a referral to an appropriate paediatrician.

    You can also see a paediatrician without a referral from your GP. However, if you visit a specialist doctor without a referral you will not get a refund from Medicare.

    If you have had a paediatrician recommended to you by family or friends, discuss this with your GP, and they can arrange a referral.

    How to make an appointment

    A referral to a paediatrician can be either public or private.

    • A public referral is made to a hospital outpatient clinic and you see the paediatrician on duty for that day. When you get the referral from your GP, call the hospital clinic and make an appointment.
    • Private referral is made to a specific paediatrician – often a doctor of your choice. You need to call the paediatrician's rooms to make an appointment. You will see the same doctor each visit.

    How much does it cost?

    If you have a Medicare card, a visit to a paediatrician at a hospital outpatient clinic or at a community health centre does not cost you anything.

    A private paediatrician's fees will vary and there is usually some cost to you, usually called 'out-of-pocket expenses'. When you make the appointment, you can ask how much it will cost and how much you will get back from Medicare.

    Making the most of your visit

    Before you go and see the paediatrician take some time to prepare.

    • Write down the reason for your visit and your concerns.
    • Write down all the questions you want to ask.
    • Make a list of any medications your child is taking, including complementary or alternative therapies. Include the dose (how much medicine) and how often your child takes it.
    • If you have a baby, take their health record booklet, which includes information from their Maternal and Child Health checks.

    During your visit:

    • Write down anything that is important or that you might forget.
    • Ask questions if you don't understand anything the paediatrician says.

    After your visit, your paediatrician will often send a letter back to your GP outlining their plans for the management of your child.

    Key points to remember

    • If you think your child needs to see a paediatrician, visit your GP first and discuss your concerns with them. 
    • You can see a paediatrician as a public or private patient.
    • To make the most of your visit to the paediatrician, write down any questions you may have.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    Under what circumstances should my child see a paediatrician instead of our GP?

    If you have an existing relationship with a paediatrician (for example, from your child's birth), you may prefer to see your paediatrician. Some GPs may not feel comfortable treating more complex conditions, but you should discuss this with your GP.

    We are seeing a paediatrician at the hospital, but there is a long wait until our first appointment. What should I do in the meantime if I am worried about my child?

    Go back to your GP if you are worried about your child. Tell the GP which paediatrician you are seeing and when the appointment is. Your GP may contact the hospital paediatricians to ask for advice while you are waiting for the appointment.

    Does private health insurance cover the cost of seeing a paediatrician?

    If you see a private paediatrician there will be a fee, but private health insurance doesn't normally cover private specialist appointments. Check with your insurer. For Medicare card holders, there is no cost if you see a paediatrician as a hospital outpatient or community health centre. Private health insurance usually covers a hospital stay in a private facility, when your child is looked after by a private paediatrician.


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Primary Care Liaison Unit. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed May 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.