Medical students at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar had the chance to hone their skills by performing basic clinical examinations for children at the college’s annual Cornell Stars event.
Faculty and staff brought their children to WCM-Q’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Lab so that students could learn how to interact with children and family members and develop the creative skills that pediatricians use to approach children. They also experimented with different techniques to keep the youngsters relaxed, engaged and contented for long enough to conduct a physical examination.
The event forms an important part of the students’ introduction to WCM-Q’s clinical clerkships and courses. The students, who are all heading into the third year of the medical curriculum, were tasked with performing a basic physical examination of children of various ages, under the supervision of WCM-Q faculty and doctors from Hamad General, Al Wakra and Sidra hospitals.
The examination involves checking the child’s reflexes, examining their ears and eyes, listening to their heartbeat and breathing using a stethoscope, and assessing whether normal developmental milestones have been reached.
Dr. Amal Khidir, associate professor of pediatrics, and organizer of the Cornell Stars program, said: “Cornell Stars is a wonderful opportunity for the students to gain some practical experience of working with young children, learning how to approach them and their families, engage them, keep them at ease, using distraction techniques where needed, so that a basic but comprehensive physical exam can be carried out.
“We are very grateful to our young volunteers and their parents for being so patient and generous with their time for the benefit of our students.”
Dr. Khidir explained that with adults, examinations usually proceed systematically from head to toe, but with children it is an opportunistic but complete examination. The physicians must be prepared to adapt the order, often while the examination is in progress. Usually a doctor will start at the heart and lungs of a young child and go on to the abdomen, before examining the ears and finally the nose and throat so as to minimize distress. They need to be flexible to examine the child in mom’s lap if needed. They also need to use their senses and refine their observation skills to be able to gather the information needed to take care of or treat the child.
This year, 27 children aged four months to six years took part in Cornell Stars, along with 40 third-year students. The doctors who took part were Drs. Mehdi Adeli, Mohamed Omer, Barbara Blackie, Wail Said Ali Seleem, Shabina Khan, Samar Osman, Sohair Elsiddig, Manasik Kamil Tarkooni Hassan, Robert Crone and Amal Khidir.
Student Huda Alalami said: “I found it a really helpful exercise. I had never examined a child before and I was a little bit concerned that it would be very tricky and the child might get upset. But the supervisors showed us some really useful techniques that helped to keep the children calm.”