Day in the life of
Pediatrician – Noha Polack, MD, FAAP
My typical day
A typical day for me as a practicing pediatrician starts by coming into the office about an hour before seeing patients. During that hour I review labs and talk to patients about the lab results. I also spend some time in the morning finishing my charts from the day before. Charting takes up quite a bit of time out of my day. It is very important to document everything properly. I often have the important things filled into each chart as I see the patient but I need to do the coding and submitting of the bills to the insurance company the day after.
Once patients start to arrive at 10-11 am depending on the day the pace really picks up and so does the noise level in the office. Toddlers are afraid of doctors so there is some crying and often screaming! I love seeing patients. That is my sweet spot. I love the connection I form with families over the years. Imagine seeing 20 good friends per day and having important meaningful discussions with most of them. This job is never boring as no two people are the same. There is always a variety of personalities and problems to solve.
I really love seeing newborns and teenagers more than anything else in practice. Newborn well visits involve talking to new parents and easing their anxieties as well as educating them as to the care and feeding of this new person they are suddenly responsible for. I still remember when I had my first child and the enormous responsibility I felt so I can tell each set of parents that I understand they are overwhelmed and that they are not alone. There are so many things to talk to new parents about that each visit takes 30-45 minutes.
Teenagers challenge me in a different way. I see the teen visit as an opportunity to form an alliance. I begin the visit with the parent in the room then ask the parent to leave and have an honest and private discussion with the patient about everything from smoking to sex and gender identity. Over the years the teen begins to trust me and I find it extremely rewarding hearing their struggles and helping them through it.
During my lunch hour, I often spend time returning parent phone calls. Many of the calls are about common concerns like “my child has not had a stool in a week, what do I do” others are more time consuming like teen depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.
The pace of the day skyrockets after 3 pm when kids get out of school. That is when I get to see most of the sick children. Common symptoms are fever, congestion, cough, diarrhea, or vomiting.
I see patients until 7 pm and then head home to figure out dinner with my adult kids who are both home but soon will head back to college.
Some days I do get phone calls after hours but those are mostly answered by nurses who call me if there are any unusual concerns. My practice is open 7 days per week so my 3 partners and I take turns working one weekend per month.
Some days I go home content, others I go home drained by the amount of patient suffering I witnessed, especially teen depression and anxiety which skyrocketed during the pandemic. I try to get a good night’s sleep and wake up to do a workout and repeat it all over again.
Advice to students interested in pediatrics
When I began my college career I was hoping to become a doctor but I had no idea that I would enjoy being a pediatrician. Once I began to do rotations in medical school I realized that pediatrics is the right choice for me since I really enjoy long term relationships with families and I also enjoy solving puzzles. With infants and children who are not verbal every complaint or symptom is a puzzle. If you enjoy long term relationships and enjoy solving puzzles then pediatrics should be a fulfilling career choice as it is for me.