hurrah for health faculty students

IMG_4536Last week, Aaron had his annual physical at his pediatrician’s office.  Here he is, waiting for the inevitable entourage that follows his fabulous doctor around.

When we first arrive at the clinic, I ask, “does his doctor have any students?”  And yes she does.  It is helpful to know this at the beginning of the appointment, for that means that we will be in the treatment room a long long time while the students and residents take a good look at my boy, and learn about him and this thing called Down syndrome.

Now, Aaron’s clinic is in a teaching hospital, so I am used to the extra folks in the room.  I will admit that sometimes I get tired of sharing Aaron’s history and answering all the extra questions.  But Aaron enjoys conversing with everybody, and he is a very cooperative patient.  I understand that the students learn by doing.  Having students means Aaron’s appointment is at least 45 minutes.  I govern myself accordingly.

We wait in the treatment room.  There is a knock on the door and a crowd files in.  The medical student introduces himself and examines Aaron while I chat with his doctor and nurse coordinator.  The young man thoroughly checks out my boy and starts to examine his reflexes.  He has a little hammer and knocks on Aaron’s knees.  Aaron’s left leg swings out cooperatively when tapped.  The right leg does not.  The student keeps trying.  Tap, tap, tap.  Nothing.  Aaron thinks all this knee tapping is pretty funny.

We all paused to watch the student.  No luck on the right leg reflex.  “Uh, I can’t locate his right patella,” says the young man.  “I think it is over here,” he says, pointing to the right side of Aaron’s leg.  (I was thinking to myself, Uh-huh.  Sure it is dude.).

Aaron’s pediatrician takes over the knee tapping, and is unsuccessful too.  There is suddenly a flurry of activity.  Aaron walks around the room so they can see his gait. They all (hilariously) run down the clinic hall to observe his leg as he runs.  Aaron gets sent for an x-ray.

The next day, my phone rings.  It is his nurse coordinator.  “He has a dislocated right patella,” she says.  “The medical student was right.”

Aaron’s knee had been dislocated for a very long time, and we had not noticed.  (We are guessing it happened when he twisted his knee {but did not complain} on a friend’s trampoline many months ago. Trampolines are evil, folks).  He has seen many clinicians in various capacities since then, including an orthotics professional.  Nobody has picked up on the fact that his right knee is dislocated and way off to one side (including his oblivious parents).

Nobody except for that young medical student.  His thorough exam of Aaron caught this fact.  Now it all makes sense:  Aaron’s challenges on the stairs and his fatigue when running.  I am now in awe of Aaron’s effort and perseverance despite his injury.  That kid tries harder at everything than anybody else I know.  Every day he walks to school, and struggles to keep up in gym and at recess; every week, he runs up and down the ball hockey arena, and takes dance class with a dislocated kneecap.

As we wait for Aaron’s appointment with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, I vow to never complain about students again.  For what is one thing we all crave from the health system?  We crave time.  And students give us that time by way of their learning.

I think that health faculty students rock.  Give them a chance to do what they need to do to learn.  I promise to never roll my eyes and think: where is my ‘real’ doctor or nurse or rehab professional or pharmacist…? when they walk in a room again.  You never know what they might uncover with their fresh eyes and eagerness to learn.




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