Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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COMSEP 2012 Indianapolis Meeting

Poster Presentation:

Child Life Specialists as Teachers of Child Development in the Pediatrics Core Clerkship

Tyler Robertson, CCLS - St. Louis Children's Hospital; Jill Malan, CCLS - St. Louis Children's Hospital; Stacy Sedlack, CCLS - St. Louis Children's Hospital; Michelle Estabrook, M.D. - Washington University School of Medicine; Alexander Weymann, M.D. - Washington University School of Medicine

Teaching child development in a pediatric rotation presents unique challenges such time constraints, the traditional focus on pathophysiology, diagnosis and therapy, and the paucity of available resources and personnel. We describe our preliminary experience with a novel approach to teaching child development during our 6-week pediatric core rotation for 3d year medical students: bedside teaching of developmental milestones by Child Life Specialists.

Methods: One Certified Child Life Specialist (CLS) volunteered for this pilot project and has been the sole teacher for several successive pediatric core clerkships. Initially, each student (in pairs of two) would spend an entire morning with the CLS in the setting of an ambulatory surgery unit, observing and interacting with patients and siblings under his guidance. In a later phase, an expanded collection of teaching material was sent out to the students at the beginning of their rotation, teaching videos were added as didactic enhancement during “downtimes” with fewer available patients, and the duration of each teaching unit was shortened to 3 hours per students. Direct observation (shadowing) by a faculty member (a pediatrician) was used to complement the comments from initial student evaluations and from the CLS himself.

Results:  The majority of students found the experience positive and useful. Initial criticism was directed mainly at the length of the sessions and the efficiency of time spent, or reflected confusion about the purpose of this teaching unit (e.g. understanding Child Life, or seeing non-acute Pediatrics, versus learning about developmental milestones). In the later phase of the project, students’ evaluations have become positive more frequently.

Conclusion: Child Life Specialists can be effective teachers of child development during a pediatric core clerkship and can provide unique resources for teaching this subject matter. Important for the success of such an intervention are: 1. Clear statement of the goals and objectives; 2. Choice of clinical setting, timing and duration; 3. Carefully chosen supplemental didactic texts and figures; 4. Enhancement by audiovisual material. Further studies are needed to clarify the optimally effective design of such teaching units.