In this section
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.
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.
A referral to a paediatrician can be either public or private.
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.
Before you go and see the paediatrician take some time to prepare.
During your visit:
After your visit, your paediatrician will often send a letter back to your GP outlining their plans for the management of your child.
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
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.
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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.