Neonatologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotNeonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics. These baby docs specialize in the care of premature babies -- born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy -- as well as babies with a low birth weight or other problems.

dotAn exciting development in neonatology is the appearance of a related emerging field.

"There's a new field of medicine that's intersecting with neonatology, which is fetal diagnosis and treatment," says neonatologist Dr. Alan Hodson. He says neonatologists are working more closely with obstetricians, who sometimes diagnose a problem with a baby before it's born. Ultrasound, amniocentesis or other prenatal studies can help them find these problems.

"So the future challenge is going to be dealing with babies already diagnosed and, in some cases already treated...before they're born. That's the emerging field, and I think it will be very exciting for a career," says Hodson.

dotOnce a baby is released from the hospital, the neonatologist's job is done. A neonatologist's care is, for all intents and purposes, done in the hospital.

"The spectrum of age usually goes through the first month or two of life -- babies who have a problem at birth or acquire a problem within the first few weeks of life. Some of the patients are older than that, because they haven't recovered or are extremely premature, so they may be up to six months to a year of age before they're discharged," says Hodson.

dotNeonatologists work long, irregular hours.

"If you're a neonatologist in an academic teaching center, the bonus is that you're not always on clinical service or aren't always doing patient care. That means there'll be times when your activities are more focused on your research, teaching, or administrative activities. So there's some downtime and some relief," says Dr. Hilary Whyte.

At a Glance

Take care of at-risk babies

  • Be prepared to work long, irregular hours
  • You must be able to survive pressure
  • Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics