Several kinds of professionals are qualified to care for kids: a pediatrician, a family physician, and a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP). Here's what you need to know about each degree:
Pediatrician (MD): A medical doctor with an additional three years' training in pediatrics (the health care, development, and emotional needs of children). The traditional choice, this doctor specializes in treating kids from newborn to adolescent.
Family Physician (MD): A medical doctor with an additional three years' training in family medicine, including pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, and neurology. This physician may care for all members of the family, from baby to Grandma. This doesn't obligate the adults in the family to switch doctors, but it may have advantages. When kids are sick, chances are that Mom and Dad are sick, too. Wouldn't it be convenient to treat your shared pinkeye, sinus infection, or flu with one stop? Also, in some communities pediatricians are few, so a family practitioner is a good alternative.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): A registered nurse who usually has a master's degree in pediatric nursing (the care of children from birth to age 21). In some states, pediatric nurse practitioners work within a medical practice of physicians. According to Jan Towers, PhD, director of health policy at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, certified nurse practitioners are trained and qualified to handle most everything a primary care physician can. The only things PNPs would refer to a physician are the same ailments a primary care physician would refer to a specialist, such as tumors, heart problems, or seizures.
Typically, PNPs can prescribe most medications children need, such as antibiotics. Some states do restrict them from prescribing certain classes of drugs, such as psychotropic medications. But these are not usually prescribed for children anyway.