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Career profile: So, you want to be a pediatric intensivist

Eve Molly Esleta, Reporter

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WHO can do this? Someone who loves kids and wants to care for them, is quick on their feet and can work under pressure, is interested in working in the medical field, and who can handle blood and other medical instances that might be gruesome for others. Someone who has earned their high school diploma and Bachelor’s degree, take the MCAT and passed, and completed medical school.


WHAT does it take? To become a pediatric intensivist, you first must earn a high school diploma and bachelor’s degree, take the MCAT, complete 4 years at a medical school, complete a residency and fellowship training, obtain medical license, and purse board certification.
WHERE can you get it? Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Rush University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago.
WHEN can you do it? 11-13 years
WHY should you do it? To experience enjoy the excitement, challenges, and rewards of caring for critically ill infants and children, applying physiologic principles to disease and performing procedures.
HOW much will you make? Entry salary: $88,700/yr

Median salary: $223,311/yr

A pediatric intensivist cares for seriously ill infants and children or those who need a high-level of monitoring in a specialized inpatient unit. Depending upon the particular institution, the patients cared for may include those with traumatic injury, respiratory failure, neurological emergencies such as seizures, cardiac failure, cardiac surgery or organ transplantation. Some intensivists may  provide procedural sedation services, perform procedures (including intubation and placement of  vascular catheters), management of medications and treatments for children with brain trauma, thorough monitoring, medication, and treatment of children in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and diagnosis of children who have an unstable, life-threatening condition. Rush University Children’s Hospital is the closest children’s hospital near the Chicago land area that care for seriously ill infants and children.

There are 7 schools in the area that offer medicine. You’d first have to complete a 4-year bachelors’ degree and take as many advanced courses as you can. Then go to medical school and get a MD. Most medical schools make you take the Medical College Admission Test. Applicants with the highest scores have the best chance of getting in. The least expensive tuition is offered at University of Illinois at Chicago for $10,284 per year for an in-state undergraduate student and $10,882 per year for an out of state undergraduate student. Fees and books cost $4,480 in total (fees are $3,080 and books are $1,400). The total you’d spend each year is $25,946 per year. There are 127 undergraduate courses offered at UIC.


Jason M. Kane

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital

1.) What made you want to be an intensive care pediatrician?
I decided to become a pediatric intensivist during my pediatric training.  Critically ill children are extremely complex and I enjoyed the challenges of caring for this particular population.  Also, I consider it a privilege to be able to care for patients and their families in what is usually the most stressful time in their lives.

2.) How many years of school did you attend? Which school(s) did you attend? What courses did you take?
The road is certainly long.  I completed high school and then 4 years of college.  After that, I completed 4 years of medical school.  In order to practice in pediatrics, one has to complete 3 more years of training called a “residency.”  After that, in order to specifically work in critical care pediatrics, there is an additional 3 years of fellowship training.

3.) What is a downside of being an intensive care pediatrician?
Because of the critical nature of our field, it can be very stressful at times.  Also, there are some children who do not recover from their illnesses and it can take an emotional toll on a person.

4.) How many hours do you work a week?
It varies from week to week, but in general, when I am working in the ICU, I work 7 days in a row and the day is about 10 hours long.  Pediatric intensivists also work overnight in the hospital ICU taking care of the kids at night.  On average, a pediatric intensivist may work to some degree somewhere between 105 and 180 days per year.

7.) Why did you get into the medical field? More specifically, why as a critical care pediatrician?
To be honest, I always wanted to be a doctor, and gravitated towards pediatrics as a field very early on.  As a high school student, I volunteered with children and beyond that was a camp counselor, a lifeguard, and a swim instructor.

8.) What are some responsibilities of an intensive care pediatrician?
As pediatric intensivists, we are charged with caring for the sickest children in the hospital, those in the ICU.  We lead a team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and other members of the healthcare team to help children overcome critical illness.  We treat every condition including cancer, infection, and trauma.

9.) What task do you like the least and why?
There are some administrative burdens that come with the job of being a doctor.  They don’t really tell you that in school.  As with all jobs, there are things to enjoy and things that are just burdensome.  Being a doctor is no different.

10.)  What specific task do you like the most and why?
Providing care in the ICU includes examining patients, writing orders that delineate the plan of care, adjusting medications, interpreting laboratory tests and X-rays, performing procedures like blood sampling and others.

11.) Did you do any volunteer work or internships?
Yes.  I volunteered in high school.  I also volunteered at a hospital while in college.

12.) Would you say this job is fairly easy or hard?
Extremely challenging both physically and emotionally.  However it is equally rewarding both intellectually and spiritually.

13.) How can students prepare to become an intensive care pediatrician?
One step at a time.  Develop excellent learning skills in high school.  Dedicate your college experience to a broad education with a heavy emphasis on the basic biological sciences, but also maintain a well-rounded experience.  Work hard and understand that you will have to make some sacrifices along the way.  If pediatrics is your goal, it is important that you enjoy working with children (may seem obvious).  Additionally, exposure to some aspect of the medical field can help inform your decision.

14.) What advice can you give to others who want to pursue this career?
Its a long road and is not without sacrifice.  For better or worse, grades and test scores matter.  At times I think its somewhat unfair that such an emphasis is placed on grades and scores, but that’s simply the system.  It is also important to gain exposure to medicine (volunteer or work in a healthcare setting) before deciding to pursue medicine.  It’s not a “job” but rather a true lifestyle and a career.  For some its a calling.


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8 Responses to “Career profile: So, you want to be a pediatric intensivist”

  1. Alyssa on May 7th, 2018 8:27 am

    As someone that wants to be in the medical field and also be a pediatrician, this article helps a lot of the questions I had about medical school and how many years it take to reach for your goal. I wouldn’t want to be a pediatric intensivist since I feel like I would get affected by emotionally but either way its a beautiful job to have.

  2. Destiny Sanchez on May 7th, 2018 8:31 am

    After reading the article it made me wonder if this is truly a field that I want to go into and study. Because it takes many years of studying alone, you really need to have a full commitment to this career, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. Also there is a lot of work you would have to do under heavy pressure all the time, and I get nervous about trivial things too often.

  3. Andrea Bautista on May 7th, 2018 8:31 am

    This articles was really helpful mostly because it gave references to where someone can apply. Also they had great questions for the doctor. I think that it great that we can volunteer and get exposure to these sort of work environment.

  4. Ruth Garcia on May 7th, 2018 8:33 am

    I really like this article because it really helped me with some questions I had in mind about becoming a pediatrician in the future. As of right now I am a high school student considering on becoming a pediatrician, When I was younger I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor but once I started getting older I volunteered at my church as a catechist for little children and decided that I live working with small children which made me choose to be a pediatrician later when I get to college. This article was really a lot of help! 🙂

  5. Anahy Medina on May 7th, 2018 10:45 am

    Thank you, Jason Kane for sharing your experience. It is incredibly captivating on what you do in the ICU and caring for children. Also, I loved the overall intake of the article because it showed what universities you can go to to complete the course for this career. It is long course to take because you have to get a masters degree, your MD, and three additional years to complete your residency. The medical field isn’t for everyone, but there are many people who are willing to take the challenge and care for others.

  6. Yatzari Landaverde on May 7th, 2018 10:51 am

    This article provides many helpful facts and advice for anyone trying to pursue a career in the medical field, specifically if you are looking to work with kids. It really goes deep and gives an insight as to how to become a pediatric intensivist and what it takes. It also gives great advice to anyone favoring the medical and science field and still trying to decide careers.

  7. Jesus on May 7th, 2018 2:14 pm

    Hey really intresting article, the interview in particular was very insightful. I definitely feel alot more knowledgeable on the topic. While I don’t see myself ever pursuing this career in the future, I’m in a much better position to adivise anyone thinking about a career similar to this. All in all really great article lots of valuable information and I appreciate the advice. 🙂

  8. Erika Rizo on May 9th, 2018 2:03 pm

    Having to be a pedriatic takes a lot of patience and a lot of work. This article talks about the issues some people might have. This article is informational and really helpful for someone who wants to be a pedriatic. This article can answer many peoples question.

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Career profile: So, you want to be a pediatric intensivist