In the course of their education, medical students must learn about the care of all patients — from prenatal checks of an unborn child to newborns, infants, toddlers, children and adults of all ages. At each age, the way in which one approaches a patient will vary. This is especially important when dealing with infants and toddlers who are in the early stages of their personal development and generally are unable to articulate what ails them.
To aid students in learning the skills required to do a physical exam of an infant or toddler, the second-year clinical examination course holds an "Infant and Toddler Workshop," in which pediatric physicians from Einstein affiliates Montefiore Medical Center and Jacobi Medical Center demonstrate how to approach and engage patients who are between one week and eighteen months old.
"The particular focus of the workshop is to teach medical students the power of observation in approaching a child for physical assessment. Students can gain a great deal of information about the child's overall health by mere observation. In particular, the students are taught to focus on the child's developmental behaviors and determine through observation or parental report if the child's behavior is characteristic for their chronological age," explained Mimi McEvoy, co-course director for the "Introduction to Clinical Medicine" in the second year.
Since each stage of infancy and childhood is marked by some specific characteristic, such as being able to sit up for an infant or responding to verbal cues for a toddler, it’s helpful for students to observe these stages and how to engage children who are at different stages of development.
"It’s fascinating to observe the babies and toddlers, and to see the vast range in their abilities and how differently one must approach each," said second-year student Fa’iz Bayo-Awoyemi during a break in the demonstrations.
To help make sure there are enough infants and toddlers for students to observe, it has become a tradition at Einstein to invite students who have young children to volunteer their infants and toddlers as participants in the workshop. Approximately a dozen infants, babies and toddlers, with parents in tow, served as model patients during the one-hour workshop. Depending on the child’s age and temperament, medical students occasionally had the opportunity to attempt the skills they have observed.
"As a medical student who is a parent, I’ve seen the changes in my child’s development," said Michael Kurin, whose 15-month old daughter was among the young volunteers. "So I know how helpful being able to observe children at different stages of development can be as we learn these important skills."
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