The annual Interprofessional Child Development Day brought parents together with more than 300 students to strengthen foundational team-based collaborative skills that enhance safe, quality, and equitable care.
Lots of questions.
Questions such as: “When did your child start crawling?” When did she start talking?” Is there a family history of genetic issues? “What kind of safety barriers do you have in your home?” “What kind of things does he like to do?” “Has she had any illnesses?”
Those questions, and dozens more, came from the 323 MGH Institute students during the MGH Institute’s annual Interprofessional Child Development Day, held on October 13. Stationed in rooms throughout the Shouse Building, teams composed of students from the school’s direct-entry programs spoke via Zoom with parents of children aged six months to three years old, learning about each child’s development from the perspective of what they are being taught in their respective programs.
During each 45-minute block, it wasn’t unusual for one of the 28 children to dart out of the camera’s view, only to return running with outstretched hands into their parent’s arms. It may have momentarily interrupted the question-answer session, but it gave students more insight into what developmental milestones a child has reached.
“It was a great experience,” said Hope Hilsenrath, a first-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy student, after watching Andrea Crane and six-month-old Ridley with the rest of her team. “We had just had an exam in human development, so I was looking for things like how her grip and postural control were and she seemed well above norm. She was killing it.”
“Baby Day,” as it’s affectionately known, has evolved over the years from being an event only for physical therapy students into one that now includes the genetic counseling, nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, and speech-language pathology programs. It’s one of several opportunities where students work together and learn from each other to get a better understanding of how, say, a nurse looks for certain child development milestones while a physical therapist looks for other criteria. It's part of the Institute’s interprofessional team-based instruction that is woven throughout students’ education.
“This group did fantastic,” said Ann Seman, director of clinical education in the Department of Genetic Counseling and one of 27 faculty and staff who were with the students, commenting on the cohort Hilsenrath was in. “They all jumped right in and asked great questions that really engaged the family.”
“It was a way of getting exposed of different ways of looking at a child’s development,” Hilsenrath noted. “There are a lot of factors that I haven’t learned about, so it was really cool to hear what kinds of questions the other students were asking.”
This is the first year since 2020 that students were together in person, although parents and their children Zoomed in because of a recent rise in Covid-19 cases. Before the pandemic, parents – many of whom are IHP alumni who were the question-askers as students – came to campus where students had a chance to physically interact with the children.
Jenn Mackey, who was the day’s lead organizer, said having students interact with parents in their homes rather than on campus has its advantages.
“It’s a positive because students get to see the kids in their natural environments and really see what it’s like for the family,” said Dr. Mackey, director of clinical education in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, noting how telehealth visits have become more prevalent since 2020, so exposing students to working with patients remotely is more important than ever. “They can see kids climb stairs, what toys they play with, how they interact with a pet, where they eat. And by having the students together, it gives them an opportunity to talk more with each other and really explore what kinds of things each one was looking for during their session.”
Taylor Jenkinson, a second-year Master of Science in Nursing program, agreed with Mackey’s assessment after their team peppered questions to PT department clinical instructor Aly Moriarty about her 18-month-old twin girl, Charlotte.
“I liked seeing how the home was set up,” said Jenkinson. “There was a little bit of awkwardness to it at first, but once we were in the groove it’s just another person on the other side of the screen. It gives you a real-world opportunity to practice and fine tune your interviewing skills to get more comfortable with families and patients.”
Each student team will put together a report on what they observed, and then discuss it with faculty – yet another opportunity to further cement the skill of teamwork they will use after they graduate.
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