Perinatology Essay Example

I have always been excited for my future and eager to plan it, so when I watched Grey’s Anatomy with the intention of becoming a neurosurgeon, the outcome surprised me when it went in another direction, Perinatology. The character from Grey’s Anatomy who influenced my career passion was Addison Montgomery. In an episode during season two, Addison treated a patient who was pregnant with quintuplets. The babies were born prematurely, so a few days after delivery one of the children passed away. I looked up what specialty she was in because of her incredible work on this case and it was mentioned by her peers that she was undoubtedly the best doctor in her field. Not only was Addison an OB/GYN, but she also was certified in Maternal Fetal Medicine and Neonatal Surgery. Her job titles sounded sophisticated yet enjoyable, which gave me reasons to research more about Maternal-Fetal Medicine. The type of work that these doctors perform and the conditions they treat are highly intriguing to me. A career in Perinatology requires portraying many characteristics, extensive training, and commitment to work. 

First and foremost, Perinatology, also called Maternal Fetal Medicine, is a subspecialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology within the medical field, but specializes in high-risk pregnancies. The reason Perinatology is nicknamed Maternal Fetal Medicine is because the physician cares for both the mother and fetus. Examples of high-risk pregnancies are when the mother has a prepregnancy disease or condition, the mother contacts a disease during pregnancy, the mother is older than 35 at the time of pregnancy, the mother has a history of miscarriages or preterm birth, the mother is pregnant with multiple babies, the baby(s) has a condition, and the placenta during birth is in an abnormal spot. These examples of high risk pregnancies occur in six to eight percent of all pregnancies in the United States according to multiple studies from hospitals such as the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Both of these hospitals are top ranked hospitals in the world. Perinatologists conduct tests such as specialized ultrasounds, prenatal DNA screening, and invasive/surgical genetic screening. They also prescribe treatments for pre-known conditions for the mother and baby during pregnancy and right after birth. The Perinatologist will not care for the baby after birth as they are not Pediatricians and a neonatologist will take care of the baby. On the contrary, they will treat the mother straight after birth if there are complications such as bleeding or infections. Perinatologists have to put their skills and talents from work and incorporate them with their emotions, as feelings and emotions on the job will be discussed in the next paragraph. 

Secondly, Perinatologists have to enable different feelings while working to ensure maximum potential of the result of the treatment and procedure. For example, Dan O’Keefe, M.D, and Brian Iriye, M.D, wrote in an article on the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine webpage that hospital employers look for candidates that are empathetic, self controlled, motivated, and have good talking skills. They claim this because people see Perinatologists as physicians who take control and be leaders whom people can trust. Trust is so important in a doctor-patient relationship because according to University of Michigan Medical School Professor, Susan Dorr Goold, trust between the two people gets work done more efficiently. Differing from work cases, these doctors also have to have patience to complete the challenging process. In the next paragraph, it explains how much time and effort goes into becoming a Perinatologist, all of which needs a lot of patience. 

Third, to be a certified Perinatologist, there will be an involved and difficult path to follow. The first step in becoming a perinatologist is acquiring a bachelor’s degree after completing college. There is no specific college or major that is required, but there is a minimum course requirement to get into medical school. These courses are biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Occasionally but less common required classes include English, Psychology, and Sociology. In junior year of undergraduate school, students must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to apply to medical schools. The second stop in the road to becoming a Perinatologist is going to medical school. Throughout the second through fourth years of medical school, students will have to take the USMLE Steps one, two, and three. These tests will show residencies your strengths and weaknesses and knowledge on topics that will determine what residency and field you match with. Along with this during your second and fourth years of medical school, there are clinical clerkships in the college’s hospital. These give students an idea of what kind of career they would want to pursue; which in the case of Perinatology, would be Obstetrics and Gynecology. To match with an OB/GYN residency, there is a required application called the Electronic Residency Application Service that students can transmit before their fourth year of medical school to mid November of the same year. Match Day occurs during the fourth year of medical school to discover what hospital’s OB/GYN residency students have matched with. Matches are made with algorithms created by your preferences and how well future residents would fit into the hospital’s program and its environment. The third stop in the road to becoming a Perinatologist is Obstetrics and Gynecology residency. The time it takes to complete this specific residency is four years. During this time period, doctors learn how to conduct procedures and treat conditions with real life patients. After the four years of residency, there is a mandatory OB/GYN board certification. Certification is a multiple year event, as the first day is a written test and if the test has been passed, there will be an oral exam the next year. The oral part of the exam is taken a year later so the proctors conducting the test can ask you about previous cases. The fourth and final step to become a Perinatologist is applying and getting accepted into a Maternal Fetal Medicine fellowship. The application process is similar to the one before residency. Fellowship is also similar in theory to residency, but in a Perinatologist’s case, the fellowship only has cases and treats high-risk pregnancies, as that is what they are sub-specializing in. This fellowship only takes three years in comparison to the previous four year Obstetrics and Gynecology residency. Following the completion of the three year fellowship, there will be another board certification, but this exam is in Maternal Fetal Medicine, whereas the first certification was in OB/GYN. This certification is only an oral exam and no written test. Once the exam is complete and passed, the doctor would now be board certified in Perinatology in addition to Obstetrics and Gynecology. Perinatologists have to read a selection of books on topics of maternal fetal medicine and answer questions to maintain certification every year. This goes on every year for the rest of a career.

Last, but not least, the demanding work environment requires Perinatologists to be fully committed to their job and the hospital. Before being a certified Perinatologist, students spend an average of thirty to forty hours per week studying out of the 168 hours in a week, this number is excluding classes and exams. During OB/GYN residency, residents work between forty and sixty hours a week, which is much higher than the current national working hour average of 34.4 weeks, according to The Balance Careers. Although Obstetricians work around only four days a week, they have to work multiple overnight on call shifts per month. Jennifer Blake, M.D, explains how much dedication you need in the medicine field when she commented, “Medicine in general does not stop at the end of the work day so it is basically a 24/7 career so it takes me away from my own family rounding in the hospital on Christmas morning or being on call late at night. Those are sacrifices you make when you enter the medical field.” Because Perinatology is a less popular specialty depending on your location, there is no recorded average working hours per week, and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine explains that the amount you work depends on your hospital or practice.


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