From my paper-lined perch on the exam table, everything in the room looked like a doctor’s office. But this wasn’t an ordinary exam room; this is one of several lab rooms in the patient skills center used by the physician assistant program to learn and practice skills they’ll one day put to use.
Last Friday I was asked to help the students’ skills lab. It’s not my vast medical knowledge that qualified me — because everything I’ve learned comes from medical dramas like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” It was the fact that I’m currently four months pregnant with my second child. The skills lab revolved around prenatal care, which made me an excellent volunteer. While the students gained real-world experience, I got to hear my baby’s heartbeat all afternoon.
In groups of three, PA students would enter the room and introduce themselves. Their instructor Amanda Diles then explained to them what goes on during the routine prenatal visits an expecting mother goes to — such as blood tests, the three various ultrasounds, blood pressure checks, and weight gain monitoring. She would ask them questions, like why taking the patient’s blood pressure is important in this instance, and the students would answer or ask further questions in order to understand. It was as much of a learning experience for me as it was for them. Now I know why my doctor does all of the things he does when I go for my checkups.
Then came the fun part. First, Amanda took the fetal Doppler heart monitor and showed the students how to begin looking for the baby’s heartbeat, placing the wand on my stomach and slowing moving it. She showed how it can be a little difficult to find an almost 4 1/2-inch baby, especially one who seemed to have had enough poking and prodding. Once she had located the heartbeat, it was the students’ turn. Each took the Doppler tentatively at first, unsure how to hold the wand, and apologized for cold hands or pressing too hard on my stomach. But each was extremely polite, professional and prepared. Once they too found the heartbeat, their eyes lit up with pride in completing the task and awe in the power of God’s creation.
“You smile every time you hear it,” one student said to me.
“You do, too!” I replied.
In my routine medical encounters, I come across a Harding PA student quite often, whether at my own doctors or my 2-year-old son’s pediatrician. They are always helpful, friendly and reflect Harding in the best possible way. I was so happy to be able to help the students with this learning experience and look forward to seeing where they go in the future.
Jennifer Hannigan, publications writer