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Medical students' attitudes to caring for a young infant—can parenting a doll influence these beliefs?
  1. L E Bath,
  2. S Cunningham,
  3. N McIntosh
  1. Department of Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh, 20 Sylvan Place, Edinburgh EH9 1UW, UK
  1. Dr Bathl.e.bath{at}


AIM To investigate whether attitudes to parenting were altered in final year medical students following a period spent caring for a simulated infant.

METHODS Seventy medical students during their paediatric attachment in the final year completed a questionnaire regarding personal childcare attitudes. Students attached to a teaching hospital were allocated a 24 hour time period to care for “Baby Think It Over” (BTIO), a computerised doll that simulates a 6 week old infant and records care given. The students then completed a second questionnaire assessing the impact of the experience.

RESULTS Forty nine per cent of students thought their advice regarding sick children was less valid than if they had their own children; 96% of students believed their approach to parents caring for young infants could be improved by caring for a 6 week old infant. All the students felt their lifestyle would be affected. Following the BTIO care period, 79% considered the experience straightforward, with 35% expressing a little more empathy and 15% a lot more empathy for parents as a result. Thoughts regarding impact on lifestyle were unaltered. Caring for BTIO, however, was not considered to be a realistic experience and overall not particularly useful.

CONCLUSION Simulated infants are of only limited value in increasing medical student understanding of parental concerns.

  • medical student
  • parenting
  • communication skills

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