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Neonatologists are specialty pediatricians that care for newborn babies, particularly for newborns that are premature, underweight, or face another complex condition.
Medical Negligence and Neonatologists In Maryland
Neonatologists have a difficult job; the nature of a neonatologist’s duties is to help infants that are experiencing complications and serious health problems, so the patients are incredibly fragile.
Some of the most common medical malpractice injuries in neonatology occur during labor and delivery. Neonatologists are usually only involved in complicated and high-risk deliveries where the chance of injury is already high. When neonatologists are asked to attend difficult deliveries they should make sure that the room is equipped with the staff and medical equipment that might be needed to treat the infant.
Malpractice can also occur if neonatologists fail to properly monitor the fetal heartbeat during labor and delivery or fail to monitor the pH of the umbilical cord. These mistakes can result in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the infant’s brain and neurologic deficits, like cerebral palsy.
Negligence can also occur when a baby is born prematurely. Neonatologists will need to map out a treatment plan for the baby before birth, including which doctors will be needed in the room and where ventilators and other equipment will be located.
Malpractice can occur when a neonatologist fails to make a prompt diagnosis, allowing the infant to suffer. Once a condition has been diagnosed in a newborn, negligence can occur when the doctor fails to adequately monitor the baby’s condition.
Other common malpractice suits in neonatology commonly include:
- Neonatal transport
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
- Line complications (deep venous lines and arterial lines)
- Retinopathy of prematurity
- Congenital heart disease
- Hypoxia (HIE)
- Developmental dysplasia of the hip
- Newborn sepsis
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 31,000 neonatologists in the United States.
Responsibilities Of Neonatologists
Neonatologists treat newborn babies with conditions such as birth asphyxia, fetal distress, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, respiratory distress, sepsis, birth defects, breathing disorders, and low birth weight. New developments in technology and surgical techniques allow neonatologists to treat babies still in the womb using fetal surgery.
Neonatologists will provide comprehensive care for critically ill babies from birth until the babies are discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Neonatologists may begin caring for a baby before birth through consultations with the parents about treatments that can occur at birth, or treatments that can begin in utero. Neonatologists may help with high-risk deliveries to treat the baby for any complications from birth.
The specific role of a neonatologist will depend on the setting in which the doctor works and on any specialties the doctor is qualified in. Neonatologists may offer specialty care for conditions like:
- Breathing and respiratory disorders
- Heart disease
- Neurologic problems
- Congenital malformations
- Genetic disorders
- Premature birth
Doctors can also operate on the baby in utero before birth when there is a serious problem, like a heart defect, that cannot wait until birth to be fixed, or when early treatment will provide the child a higher quality of life. For example, fetal surgery for spina bifida has been shown to improve the likelihood that the child will be able to walk and will experience less neurological problems.
Neonatologists will also provide family counseling to help families cope with difficulties with their infant’s health, and to discuss options for the baby’s treatment.
Educational Requirements For Neonatologists
Students who want to become neonatologists are required to complete medical school and earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).
Neonatologists will need to complete residency programs and obtain state licenses to practice in their specific field.
Licensing Requirements For Neonatologists
Neonatologists, like all doctors, are required to pass a state-specific licensing exam to be allowed to practice medicine. These exams certify doctors to practice any type medicine in that state and do not establish that the doctor has any expertise in a specific field.
Doctors are encouraged to demonstrate expertise by becoming board certified in the type of medicine they want to practice. Neonatologists are certified by a sub-board of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) called Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, but will also need to be certified by the ABP in general pediatrics. Since neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics, neonatologists will be required to complete a 3-year residency in pediatrics, and then must specialize and complete a 3-year fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine.
Neonatologists will need to take certain steps to maintain their certifications including completing self-assessments, taking continued learning classes, and eventually re-taking the certification examination.
Where Neonatologists Work
Neonatologists work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) of hospitals. NICUs can be in general hospitals or birthing hospitals. Neonatologists are usually associated with an academic or private practice organization, and many neonatal practices are connected with residency and fellowship programs.
Neonatologists can also work solely in academics or clinical settings. The average salary of a neonatologist is $201,733.
Maryland Neonatology Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Babies born with complications face a difficult first month, and parents want to know that their doctors are doing everything possible to help their baby survive with a good quality of life. When doctors make mistakes with newborns, the results are often catastrophic and permanent.
If your child has suffered serious injuries from the medical treatment by a neonatologist, call us today to schedule a free consultation. Our law firm is recognized for excellence in protecting and advocating for children medical malpractice victims and their families.
Negligent treatment and medical mistakes are not always obvious when dealing with babies who are already facing complications. Our expert staff will assess your case and determine if you are eligible for compensation.