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Pediatric physicians increasingly taking on risk of treating mental health conditions

For counseling professionals, particularly those who prescribe medications and/or monitor their use by patients, the ability to manage medication-related risks is critical to ensuring the safety of patients and avoiding liability. This is important not only for professionals in the field of mental health, but increasingly also for pediatric physicians.

In recent years, a shortage of adolescent psychiatrists and an increase in pediatric mental illness has resulted in an increasing number of pediatricians stepping up to take on the role psychiatrists ordinarily take. This is positive in that the need for such care is being met in places and at times when it otherwise would not, but it also raises concerns about whether many pediatricians are capable of handling mental health issues.

Mental health patients of any age should be able to trust that their caregivers have a basic competency in assessing mental health conditions, particularly ADHD. Pediatricians may generally have less confidence taking on treatment for anxiety, depression and autism, but patients should still be able to trust that a pediatrician who treats for these conditions   is competent enough to make correct, timely diagnoses, and to provide an appropriate course of care for the patient, including non-medication courses of treatment.

Pediatric physicians are not expected to take on areas of treatment they are not competent to take on, but they should at least be able to refer out to specialists in such cases. Those who are harmed by a negligent pediatrician can and should work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to seek compensation for their losses.

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