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Top Services Offered by a Traveling Pediatrician

Top Services Offered by a Traveling Pediatrician

A bit like the job of a country doctor before the turn of the 20th century, the position of traveling pediatrician offers travel, the practice of medicine in a variety of locales, but unlike that of a country doctor, it offers reliable pay.

Medical staffing services place doctors who work in locum tenens, Latin for place holder, in hospitals and medical centers that need them. These traveling pediatricians hold the place or fill in for a doctor on vacation or sabbatical.

Other traveling pediatrician positions with programs like the non-profit Doctors Without Borders place the physician in the field working with children in foreign countries, typically underfunded to hire medical staff. The non-profit organization pays the doctor’s salary.

What does a pediatrician do?

A pediatrician specializes in the treatment of infants, children, teens, and young adults up to the age of 21 years. Some pediatricians work in general practice, meaning they treat all ages of children and all childhood diseases. Other pediatricians specialize further, such as in oncology, neurology, or the treatment of specific birth defects. Most traveling pediatricians work in general practice, but locum tenens positions for specialty positions exist, too.

Typical Services of a Traveling Pediatrician

The position of general practice traveling pediatrician offers many services to its patients, including:

  • Annual physical examinations
  • Well-baby and well-child exams
  • Vaccinations
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries
  • Writing prescriptions.

A child’s pediatrician monitors the development of the child physically, emotionally, and socially. If a pediatrician notes developing mental illness in a patient, the parents receive a referral for examination of the minor child by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Typically, a pediatrician would refer the patient to a psychiatrist, a type of medical doctor who can write prescriptions.

Likewise, if a pediatrician discovers a child has developed a disease, the doctor writes a referral for the parents to take the child to a specialist. If a child requires physical therapy because of an injury then the doctor prescribes physical therapy.

The bedside manner discussed in so many medical texts and websites also applies to dealing with the patient’s parents. The pediatrician must listen to parents’ concerns, offer advice, and provide answers.

Many doctors consider the field of pediatrics one of the toughest, because when the patient falls ill or becomes seriously injured it can feel heartbreaking because they are so young. It also offers some of the greatest intangible rewards when the doctor can help heal a child diagnosed with a serious illness or find or develop a treatment that significantly improves the quality of life for an ill child.

Let’s consider some of the typical services rendered by a traveling pediatrician and those for which pediatricians offer referrals.

Hydration Treatment

When working as a traveling pediatrician, doctors frequently diagnose dehydration in children, especially when working overseas. The human body requires about 64 ounces of water or other non-caffeinated liquid per day to maintain proper hydration. The human body consists of 60 to 70 percent water and this water hydrates bodily organs and maintains their proper function. In hot weather, humans and animals require additional water.

Children younger than nine years of age need slightly less water, but many don’t get the minimum amount required each day, resulting in dehydration. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, infrequent urination, and reduced playfulness. The doctor may prescribe drinking eight glasses of water per day and adding two extra glasses each day until the symptoms alleviate. In more severe cases, they might use an IV to infuse the body with fluids to quickly rehydrate the child to safe levels.

Parents may find that drinking water along with their child makes it easier to get them to quaff that amount of non-caffeinated liquid. Maintaining proper hydration levels offers many benefits for mom and dad, too, since it improves skin tone and elasticity. This helps avoid the need for treatments like IPL photofacial treatment to look younger.

Bodily Alignment and Strengthening

A traveling pediatrician may also offer treatment of issues of bodily alignment, such as scoliosis. These doctors might specialize in strength training. Most people associate strength training with power sports and athletic development but it also applies to developing muscle strength in children born with birth defects such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

Treatment of these diseases includes surgery and physical therapy. The pediatrician works closely with the physical therapist to develop a regimen that helps the child develop the best possible muscle tone and control. This level of physical therapy requires doing exercise routines at home, too, with the help of their parents or other family members. Parents may need to install athletic flooring in one room of the home to get it ready for this purpose.

Massage and Acupuncture

Massage and acupuncture don’t make the list of services typically provided by a traveling pediatrician. Your pediatrician can, however, provide you with a referral for treatment by acupuncture doctors. If your pediatrician prescribes acupuncture as a medical treatment, it may influence your medical insurance company to cover part or all of the treatment. This probably won’t happen if your insurance does not already cover such treatments.

Some pediatricians may recommend alternative health therapies, but you’ll probably need to search for one that does. The typical traveling pediatrician uses standard medical practices. Instead of operating their own practices, these pediatricians work through a medical staffing agency to obtain temporary positions at medical centers and hospitals. That agency placement results in their agreement to provide specific standards of care.

Telehealth Services

What if you don’t live near a medical center or hospital? How do you find a traveling pediatrician to treat your child or children? Check your medical insurer’s website for telehealth services. Many insurance companies now partner with board-certified physicians who offer their services via meetings on Zoom or GoToMeeting.

These virtual doctor appointments usually cost less than in-person appointments and require no travel on the part of the patient or doctor. You may only need to pay your insurance’s co-pay to obtain telehealth services.

A virtual doctor’s appointment works best for consultations or asking for professional advice. Telehealth appointments also provide an opportunity to ask a pediatrician for a referral to a specialist to seek specialized treatment for a child’s illness or injury.

You can’t replace physical doctor’s appointments and treatments with telehealth appointments but these virtual consultations can help you obtain specialized treatment. The virtual doctor can also help you find a local doctor for your child.

Children’s Dentistry

Of course, children need other types of doctors besides a traveling pediatrician. Dentists also specialize in pediatrics, so look for a pediatric dentist for your child while they remain in their infant years. A child should see a dentist for the first time at about the age of six months. After the initial pediatric dental appointment, a child should visit the dentist at least once per year.

Pediatric dentists and their staffs offer training in dental care for children. They show kids how to brush properly, floss, and how to gargle with mouthwash. They also show parents how to help their young children accomplish these tasks.

Children usually need parents’ help with brushing, flossing, and gargling until the age of five or six years. Some kids pick it up by the age of three or four, but that’s unusual.

Training children to brush their teeth after each meal can result in better dental hygiene in adulthood and better dental development. Pediatric dentists educate parents and children about the importance of drinking plenty of water, especially fluoridated tap water, and reducing or eliminating sugar from their diets.

Good dental habits developed in childhood lead to better results in dental health as adults. Educating children and helping them develop good dental habits can help them avoid dental implant surgeries as adults, surgeries that replace roots and teeth with prosthetic ones.


A traveling pediatrician may recommend that your child see an orthodontist if they complain about problems related to biting, chewing, or swallowing. The pediatrician may test for disorders such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), which commonly develops in the late teen years or early young adulthood. TMJ causes jaw pain and problems with the muscles that handle proper jaw control.

The pediatric dentist also examines the patient for diseases, disorders, and malformations of the teeth and jaw. An orthodontist would install metal braces for teeth on the child to straighten their teeth and align them properly within the jaw. Orthodontists treat overbites and underbites. Correcting these problems can make it easier for a child to talk, eat, and drink.


Your local traveling pediatrician won’t offer the services of an obstetrician but can provide a referral to an OBGYN for young women who need to begin their gynecological monitoring. This becomes necessary when a female reaches the age of puberty and begins to menstruate.

The inception of menstruation coincides with the ability to become pregnant and for the individual to develop various diseases related to the reproductive cycle or ovaries. Thus, most young women initially visit an OBGYN at the inception of puberty.

The majority of OBGYNs – 90 percent – practice general gynecology. The other 10 percent specialize. Most obstetricians offer safe sex tips, including how to avoid contracting HIV, birth control options, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations.

Besides treating vaginal illnesses, OBGYNs also provide pregnancy care, including infertility treatments and genetic testing. They offer prenatal care and deliver babies. Some obstetricians will work with doulas so a mother can experience a natural home birth, but most use the services of a hospital with which they maintain affiliation.

Veterinary Recommendations

Pets become a part of your family, so it makes sense to ask for recommendations for their care. Your pediatrician might not know a great animal doctors office, but most probably know at least one veterinarian personally.

It can’t hurt to ask your family doctor for a recommendation for a vet for your pets. Because families tend to adopt pets, they may have picked up on which vets offer the best service incidentally, by talking with their own patients.

Do locum tenens pediatricians care about patients like a regular pediatrician?

Many locum tenens pediatricians go into that field of treatment because they care so much about their young patients. They rotate through hospitals throughout the country and some choose positions outside of the US. They often serve in areas typically underserved for health and medical needs, substituting for the area’s regular pediatrician while that individual takes a much-needed break.

How do I know if my child visits a locum tenens pediatrician?

When you visit your usual pediatrician’s office or the medical center or clinic where you typically take your child, the medical facility should inform you that the doctor your child regularly visits went on vacation or sabbatical. The intake nurse or medical assistant tells you upon arrival that your child will see a doctor who has assumed the regular doctor’s practice.

Many facilities let you know that your child’s regular doctor took a leave of absence when you phone to make the appointment. In situations when the doctor falls ill and took time off for treatment and recovery, you may not find out about the locum tenens pediatrician until you arrive at the medical center.

In all cases, the medical facility or office should inform you that your child will not visit their regular doctor at that appointment. This provides the parent or parents with notice and allows them to make an informed decision as to whether they want to continue with the visit or wait until the child’s regular pediatrician becomes available again.

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