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Recent reductions in working hours and the increasing complexity of care in the UK both demand an increase in the number of consultant paediatricians.1 Responses of UK medical school graduates from 1974 to 2002 when surveyed on career influences indicate the importance of experiencing paediatrics during both medical school and the early postgraduate years.2 Recruitment into paediatrics should therefore begin in medical school, giving students early exposure to the best that paediatrics has to offer, especially as this may be their only opportunity before choosing careers.3 It is at this critical point that student-led paediatric societies could play a vital role.
The Cambridge University Paediatric Society (CUPS) was established in 2009 to increase medical student exposure to paediatrics. There are approximately 250 student members who attend CUPS events, including careers evenings, life support training days and Teddy Bear Hospital sessions.
Both medical students and foundation year doctors need accessible expert career advice.4 5 CUPS therefore ran two career events attended by 140 medical students overall. The latest event was a ‘Just a Minute’ specialties debate: consultant paediatricians were given 1 min to promote their subspecialty and then the student audience questioned the panel on the realities of life as a modern paediatrician.6 7
CUPS organised two paediatric and neonatal life support training days attended by 70 students in total. Students were equipped with paediatric resuscitation principles and given the opportunity to apply these by taking turns to direct the multidisciplinary management of simulated paediatric emergency scenarios facilitated by consultant paediatricians and simulation-trained nurses. Practical stations and tutorials also covered a range of neonatal resuscitation topics. Students attending the 2011 event rated it a mean of 4 out of 4 for satisfaction and 3.86 out of 4 for increased confidence in dealing with future emergency scenarios.
Experience of working with children in a voluntary capacity is helpful for students considering a career in paediatrics.4 Teddy Bear Hospital sessions aim to educate primary school children about healthcare, while helping medical students improve their paediatric communication skills. Classes of 20–30 children were split into groups and rotated around seven stations incorporating various aspects of health and hospital care. Eight sessions are run every year; each event is staffed by 25 medical student volunteers, who run the stations and shepherd groups around the circuit. Training for volunteers is provided before each event by paediatricians and committee members, who impart techniques for communicating with children and cover basic child protection principles. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, both with regard to students' confidence with children and with regard to informing their career choice.
In conclusion, CUPS demonstrates that medical school paediatric societies working with supportive consultants can be an effective and popular way of engaging students in paediatrics. Future work will aim to maintain high levels of exposure to paediatrics and directly measure changes in student attitudes towards paediatrics as a career following CUPS events. We recommend the CUPS model be established in all medical schools throughout the UK and since the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has introduced student affiliation, we hope for much future collaboration.8
Cambridge University Paediatric Society Committee (2010–2011): Michelle Allan, Victoria Beckett, Aaron D’Sa, Alice Garrett, Kimberley Hallett, Kaye Prosser, Celia St-John Green, Alex Teo, Hannah Zhu. Consultant Paediatricians: Wilf Kelsall, Robert Tasker, Robert Ross-Russell, Kate Farrer, Peter Heinz, Alasdair Parker, Susan Broster, Carlo Acerini, Nadeem Abdullah, Donna McShane.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
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