The big kids (Physician Assistant students from Butler) needed experience dealing with young patients. The little kids (kindergarten and first-grade students at the IPS/Butler Lab School) needed to have their eyes, ears, and teeth checked.
It was, as Associate Professor Jennifer Zorn put it, “a win-win situation, to get experience for our students but also provide a nice service.”
And so, on February 23, 74 PA students and 5 PA program faculty visited the elementary school a few miles south of Butler to administer exams and teach them about good dental hygiene while having a little fun, too.
Before the exams, the PA students fanned out to classrooms to work with the Lab School students in small groups. In one classroom, Butler PA students Briana Henke of Sycamore, Illinois; Jordan Kirkegaard of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Abigail Gallett of Phoenix, Arizona, sat on the floor with eight Lab Schoolers to coach them on how to take care of their teeth.
They started with the basics—what causes cavities and which sugary foods to avoid—and moved on to showing them how much toothpaste to use and the proper way to brush and floss. A giant set of teeth, an oversized toothbrush, and a rope of floss made it fun and funny for the kids.
Then they closed with a song (to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”):
Here’s my toothpaste, here’s my brush.
I won’t hurry, I won’t rush.
Working hard to keep teeth clean,
Front and back and in between.
When I brush for quite a while,
I will have a happy smile.
Sing that about four times while brushing—taking roughly two minutes—and brush at least twice a day, the Butler students advised.
Then the Lab School kids had a few things they wanted to know before they went to another room to have the PA students check their eyes, ears, and teeth. Like: “What do your gums do, and why are they called gums?” And: “Why do you have baby teeth?” And: “What are you going to have for dinner tonight?”
“It’s definitely different from what we normally do,” Kirkegaard said. “We mostly see adults in the classroom setting. But this was good practice for us for our clinical rotations and fun for them.”
This is the second year Butler PA students have gone to the Lab School to examine the youngest students. Last year, they noted a number of students with plaque buildup—and they also discovered a student who had vision problems. The child’s teacher said the student has been doing much better in school after being diagnosed and getting glasses.
“You do a lot of screenings that turn up normal,” Zorn said, “to get one that makes an impact.”