How 5-year-olds brought out the joy of learning in medical students

Last week, Lais and Yuri, our five-year-old twins, were volunteers at the school of medicine, for students to learn how to examine children.

Full disclosure: Volunteers do get a gift card. Therefore, I asked them if they wanted to “work and get some money,” and I also told them what they would have to do during that afternoon. They both said yes, and they were truly excited about the opportunity.

When I saw the request for volunteers, I felt my kids were the perfect candidates because they behave so well in the doctor’s appointments, that I have seriously considered remodeling my own house to look like a doctor’s office, with the hope that my children would be cooperative and polite, will listen all the time, and they will always do exactly what they are asked for at home.

The long-awaited day had arrived. The three of us were placed in a meeting room. A very experienced physician assistant was leading the session in our room, and she told us that we would receive four rounds of four medical students each time. In between groups, kids could get a snack.

The minute the first round of medical students entered the room, my daughter yelled: “My mom is a real doctor; you can learn from her too.” I gently told her that I was there as a mom, but it was probably too late by then. The medical students asked about my specialty, and when I told them that I was a pediatric surgeon, I could notice that two of them were excited about it. For the following rounds of students, I was introduced as a mom and a pediatric surgeon, and luckily, in all groups, someone was interested in surgery and excited about it.

After a quick demonstration of how the physical exam should be done, two medical students stayed with Lais and the physician assistant, and the other two medical students stayed with me and Yuri.

I was honestly not expecting to enjoy the experience so much. Watching my kids interact with the medical students was by itself a phenomenal experience as a mom. For the last group, Lais and Yuri were also trying to become teachers and pointing to them where the stethoscope should go and which sound they would hear: the heart, a horse racing, the lungs, my “dragon breaths.”

As a doctor, it re-energized me to see the enthusiasm of the medical students for learning, their good questions, and sincere interest during the entire session. I could not help but notice that medical students look very young, I guess that it is a sign that I am aging because I do feel they are looking younger and younger as years pass by. The sparkle in their eyes for learning something new also did not pass unnoticed; they were learning something that will make them feel more like a doctor, the physical exam. Watching their hands shake a little bit for fear of trying an otoscope in the ears of a child reminded me of my days as a medical student when I learned something new for the first time. As this was happening, in my head, I kept thinking of how in the near future, they will dominate all of that so well, but hopefully, they will preserve the enthusiasm and joy of interacting with a child. I saw in them very good future doctors, and that made me smile.

When each group was ready to leave the room, Lais and Yuri gave each of them a high-five and yelled: “Good job guys, you all did a fantastic job!” And it is true, the medical students did a fantastic job, and I was proud to, in an almost insignificant way, had contributed to their learning on that day.

Andrea Bischoff is a colorectal pediatric surgeon and can be reached on Twitter @drspenabischoff.

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