T. Chang, H. Richmond, F. Staiti, E. Andrade, MS, CCLS, F. Waffarn, M.D., and P. Murata, M.D. UC Irvine
Objectives: Students will (1) demonstrate empathy and sensitivity to the needs of chronically ill children and families, (2) show increased understanding of development, chronic illness, and impact of illness, (3) have increased awareness of pediatrics, and (4) display professional behavior. Children and their families will gain support in understanding medical conditions
Methods: Three first-year medical students initiated a pilot program from January to June 2003 to foster understanding between medical students and chronically ill children and their families. The Department of Pediatrics and College of Medicine supported the program. Ten volunteer students and ten families participated. The children, 6-16 years of age, were of various ethnic/socioeconomic backgrounds. Each student interacted with his/her assigned child through monthly activities including home visits, clinic visits, and group activities. Students had group discussions and completed pre- and post-program surveys. Family representatives underwent post-program interviews.
Results: All eight students surveyed reported learning about the effects of illness and a beneficial relationship with the child; 75% reported a greater commitment to pediatrics; 50% reported a beneficial relationship with the family. Difficulties included scheduling. All six family members interviewed endorsed the program with continued participation and said expectations were met or exceeded. All except one felt the child benefited.
Conclusions: This pilot program was validated by its results and had strong endorsement of participants. Students met the objectives, which are part of the COMSEP Curriculum. The second year of the program has expanded to 28 pairs of students and pediatric “pals”.