Shadowing Experiences: Whitney Brantley | Pediatric Medicine

For the past six weeks, I have been shadowing a pediatrician. While shadowing I was able to observe the way she prepares for each patient, how she interacts with a child, so they enjoy their visit, and how she conducts the various types of checkups. Many times I shadowed alongside a pharmacy student so I was then able to observe how doctors prescribe medications, what conditions influence their decision, and how they determine what amount to give. Along with these observations, I learned a few interesting facts about pediatrics, diseases, medications, and was also able to compare patients development.

During my first day to shadow, the doctor showed me how she prepares for each patient by checking their medical history such as their last visit to her office, any major surgeries or illnesses, and any disorders, allergies, or diseases. She also checks their height and weight and compares it to an average curve that shows if the child is developing in a linear function. She explained that though it is not a written rule, she divides pediatrics into two groups: sick children and healthy children needing a well-check.

Over the next days I shadowed, I was able to learn and observe many interesting cases. On one account, we had three different aged babies come in for well-checks, and I was able to compare the development of a two week old, two month old and four month old. During these exams, the doctor explained how babies develop in three ways: motor skills, language, and social. For motor skills, babies develop from the head down. They first begin to lift their head then they start to roll over before sitting up and eventually standing up. With language, babies first begin with cooing sounds that start with a vowel, followed by babbling that start with a consonant, and lastly begin to say simple words by twelve months.

Other interesting experiences I had were comparing a child’s healthy ear to his other ear that had an infection, watching how to conduct a neuro exam on an uncooperative and cooperative child, learning how ADHD is diagnosed and the different kinds of medications for ADHD. One interesting fact that I learned is that children who are allergic to eggs are not supposed to receive a flu shot unless they are in a facility with a crash cart ready because the flu vaccine is grown in an embryo and can cause serious allergic reactions. I also learned that doctors shine an ophthalmic scope in children’s eyes to determine if their eye reflects back a red color which means that their eye is functioning normally.

Through all of these experiences, the most memorable and impacting to me was when I shadowed the doctor she performed a well-check on a patient with spinal muscular atrophy which is a genetic disorder that causes the motor nerves to slowly deteriorate leading to muscle weakness and possibly complete loss of muscle function.  To me, the patient seemed to have every reason to be depressed or angry, but what I saw was a cheery and enthusiastic attitude. Though the exam was brief and not emotional, I still think about that experience daily. I used to think a pediatrician was the doctor for children with colds or needing a well-check, but through this shadowing experience, I realized they are so much more and impact lives greatly every day. Although, I still have no idea what kind of doctor I want to be for sure, this experience has given me a passion and interest for pediatrics. I love the way a pediatrician must communicate with a child to make their exam enjoyable, and I’ve learned that everyday there will be a different and inspiring child to leave you feeling grateful.