At the end of every rotation of the third year of medical school you take a National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) exam. These are standardized exams that most medical students in the country take for multiple classes all 4 years of school. First and second year, our final exams were NBME exams. Now we take one every 6-8 weeks which covers the topic we just finished- pediatrics for me this time!
The IU pediatrics rotation is split into two 4-week rotations. The first 4 weeks for me were inpatient pediatrics. I was assigned to a team at the local children’s hospital and spent 4 weeks on that one team. Some of my classmates were on the cardio team, pulmonology , neonatal, general pediatrics. I was on GI- gastroenterology. For 4 weeks I learned about everything that can go wrong in a child’s gut. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation were my game. The attending physicians on the GI team were AMAZING and tough. They expected a lot from us. So I studied my booty off- and I only studied GI.
After Christmas break, I began the second 4 weeks of my peds rotation but this time I was on outpatient peds. I split my time between an urgent care center and a general pediatrician office. I saw kids with fevers, sore throats, ear infections, rashes, you name it! All my studying on the GI service did not help me when I was working the urgent care center in the middle of flu season.
Once I started the outpatient 4 weeks, I realized there was A TON of pediatrics I needed to learn to a.) help these kids waiting in urgent care and b.) do well on my exam. I had been neglecting studying general pediatrics and it was time to get down to business.
For 2.5-3 weeks prior to my exam I studied a pediatrics review book. Last week I hit it hard and did an entire book of review questions. When Friday rolled around and it was time for my exam, I was super nervous! I had heard the test was hard and I had no idea what to expect- there are so many things you could be asked!! But after 2.5 hours and 100 long questions later, my exam was over!
Looking back on the pediatrics rotation, I learned SO MUCH. Here are the big things I learned:
1. Every child should have a pediatrician they love.
- A pediatrician plays a very special role in a child’s life. They have the power to influence parents and kids more than so many other people do. If your pediatrician tells you to do something, I feel as though most parents are going to do it! Also, as a pediatrician, you can gain the trust of your patient like no one else. Kids can tell pediatricians anything- that is such an honor and also a huge responsibility for the doctor. Growing up, I did not have a pediatrician. I went to random urgent visit centers when I was sick and tried a few doctors whom I did not like. Now that I’m older, I so wish I would have had a relationship with the same person my entire life. If you are a parent and you don’t have a pediatrician you and your child love, get a new one!
2. Kids are strong!
- There were some hard moments at the Children’s hospital- I won’t lie. It is not easy to see sick kids. But, the amazing thing I learned is how strong kids are! It is unbelievable what they can bounce back from. We had one tiny little kid on our service the entire time I was there and when that patient left, they looked like a completely different person. They survived multiple surgeries, near death illnesses, organ failures, countless procedures… and by the end of it all that patient was running around the hospital like they owned the place. This patient was a happy little kid who wanted to play. They didn’t seem sick at all- which was a complete 180 from the condition they were in when they arrived to the hospital.
3. I LOVE babies
- I am an only child and I don’t have any cousins that I grew up with, so I am completely unexperienced when it comes to babies. I never even baby-sat when I was younger! I didn’t know how I would feel about the kids in pediatrics to be honest. I thought I would be pretty indifferent to them- not really loving or disliking interacting with kids. Well, turns out, I LOVE babies. Oh my goodness I just love them so much. Babies are so stinkin cute. That’s all. I like the older kids too… but the babies… love.
4. Get your vaccinations people!!!
- PLEASE get vaccinated. And get your kids vaccinated. If you are anti-vaccine please tell me and we can have a one-on-one conversation. Or maybe I will just post about why it is a VERY BAD IDEA to not get vaccines. I get so angry when I see anti-vaccine stuff on facebook.
5. Good parents are the best thing ever.
- It seriously made my day whenever I had a patient with really caring/concerned parents. It is so nice to see parents who know their kids inside and out, who worry about them, who are nice, who respect me as a lowly medical student. Please know that if you are a parent and you go to the pediatricians office and you are nice and caring, you are SO APPRECIATED!!
6. Stop drinking JUICE!!!
- Wow we had so many patients who are borderline overweight at SUCH a young age and I guarantee a big part of it is the sugary beverages they consume. I had kids who drink 7-8 glasses of juice per day!! If you are giving your child juice, please water it down so it’s not as sugary and please keep it to 8oz of juice total per day. Excess juice leads to excess weight, cavities, diarrhea (all the sugar in the juice gives you diarrhea- this is super common).
7. Using your otoscope is hard.
- Looking inside ears is just hard. That’s all there is to it. Sometimes I would look and tell my attending physician I thought the ear looked red and they would say, “no it’s fine.” Then other times an ear would look EXACTLY the same as the one I thought was red so I would say it looked fine and the attending would say, “well, I think it’s pretty red”. Dang! I guess it just comes down to experience.
8. Pediatricians are nice.
- Seriously every single pediatrician I interacted with was the nicest person ever. Love that!
9. Kids in the hospital need lots of love.
- I can’t imagine being in the hospital for as long as some of the kids I met. Some children at the hospital have amazing family support systems, but others have no one. These kids are scared and separated from a normal ‘kid’ life. They are constantly being poked and prodded. There is always someone coming into their room to do something. What’s worse is that some of these kids don’t even know why they are in the hospital! We got to spend an afternoon with Child Life which is a part of the hospital staff that helps kids cope. The Child Life specialists do everything from playing with the kids to helping them through a difficult procedure. Those people are amazing. My one afternoon was spent helping a little girl get her dressing changed and let me tell you- it was traumatic. Even though we were there holding her hand, playing music, telling her stories, she was extremely upset. Just imagine what she would have experienced if she had been alone??? If my child ever needed to spend time in a hospital, I would be so relieved to know there was a Child Life specialist there for her. These kids need love and support!!
10. I could see myself doing Peds!
- People are constantly asking me if I want to be a pediatrician. I used to get really offended because I thought it was so judgmental. Just because I’m short and small and have a happy/bubbly personality, (and I’m a female) I’m automatically a pediatrician. I always want to snap back and say, “No. I’m going to be a neurosurgeon.” Sometimes I felt it was sexist- because I was a woman I was either going to do pediatrics or OBGYN. But actually, I met more male pediatricians than female while I was on this rotation. And shockingly, I think I would really enjoy being a pediatric sub-specialist of some kind. I don’t think I could be a general pediatrician because I like the hospital environment more than an outpatient clinic (I like sick people more than healthy people… I know that sounds weird). But I LOVED my pediatric GI team and I could see myself doing something like that. Don’t get me wrong- I’m still 99% sure I’m going to do ophthalmology… but it was a pleasant surprise to realize I actually liked pediatrics!
***And now for the med-school part: How I studied for the Pediatrics NBME:
- First Aid For Pediatrics- This book isn’t the best in terms of organization, but it has everything you need to know.
- Pre-Test Pediatrics- I did all the questions once and a few chapters twice
- USMLE World Qbank Pediatrics- I only did about 150 questions (there are 300 total) but they were good!
- First Aid for Step 2 CK- the pediatrics chapter is a GREAT overview. It doesn’t have everything but it’s high-yeild.