Several OSU-CHS first-year medical students learned about communicating health information to young patients last Tuesday while corralling a group of wiggly and chatty 4-year-olds to talk about washing hands.
“What are germs? Does anyone know?” asked student Kailey Shuler.
“They’re yucky! They’re nasty!” cried out one boy.
As the children’s attention began to drift, the OSU-COM medical students steered them back to the subject of washing hands. They stressed how important it is to wash hands in warm, soapy water for as long as it takes to sing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” And they advised the children that washing hands helps keep germs away.
“This project is part of learning to communicate with all kinds of people,” said first-year medical student Vinh Vu. “They think a lot differently than us because they are 4 years old. We worked to give them some basic instruction, something that will stick in their minds.”
The service-learning project was part of Developing the Physician, a three-semester course that includes shadowing non-physician health care providers, meeting with senior mentors, service-learning activities, patient simulations and activities that foster an understanding of the patient and the community.
The first-year OSU medical students visited several Community Action Project of Tulsa Early Childhood Education Centers during the spring semester to gain communication experience.
The students broke into small groups to create fun ways to teach preschoolers about hand washing, exercise, brushing teeth and what to expect when you go to the doctor.
“This project provides our students an opportunity to experience firsthand how to tailor what they know about health literacy to a specific audience,” said Nancy Van Winkle, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences and co-coordinator of the Developing the Physician course at OSU-CHS. “And since they were talking to 4-year-olds, I think our medical students have a lot of fun while learning to put the concepts they have learned into practice.”
First-year medical student Mitchell Raymond pointed out that maintaining the attention of a group of 4-year-olds was a challenge.
“We had to learn to talk differently to them and explain hand washing at a level they can understand,” he said.
Shuler and first-year student Raymee Schelkoph said the preschool visit solidified their interests in becoming a pediatrician.
“Peds is my groove,” Shuler said.