Mother with newborn infant

'Follow My Footsteps' gives students a unique opportunity to develop their professional skills, understand the patient perspective, and learn about the effects that events during early life can have on long term health. They learn about the experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing direct from families, with support from faculty tutors and are taught how to make some basic clinical assessments of young children.

Students are provided with a 'Follow My Footsteps' iBook and are encouraged to add their comments, observations and reflections to the notes and questionnaires relating to their family as they progress through the course. This builds into as a valuable record of their experiences.

Philosophy of the Course

'Follow My Footsteps' has been designed to give you a unique opportunity to follow a mother and her child through pregnancy and the early years of life.

Students will learn about the transition from fetus to infancy and about the factors which influence child health and development. This is an exciting journey for both students and the family allowing students to develop a long-term relationship with a family over a significant part of their undergraduate training.

The broad aims of the course are:

  • Clinical aims - to enhance communication skills, professionalism, appreciation of public health issues, awareness of environmental and social influences on patients and an opportunity to learn to interact with children.

  • Scientific aims - to understand the impact of early inherited and environmental influences on lifelong health and disease and identify windows for early intervention.

Tutorials and visit schedule

The course is structured around a combination of small group tutorials, home visits and self-directed learning from Years 2-5 of the course.

A summary of the course tutorials and visit schedule is below. The tutorials are mandatory and generally take place prior to each visit. Students are asked to read the Tutorial notes for the relevant tutorial prior to attending it, and they then complete the relevant Visit proforma when visiting their family.

The visits outlined below are the minimum expected of students during the course. If they wish to visit their family more often, attend an antenatal scan, birth, clinic visit or other occasion and the family agree, they are strongly encouraged to do so. The more visits that are made to a family the more students will learn during the course.

 Course structureYear 2Year 3 Year 4Year 5
Term 1 Tutorial 1
Visit 1: during pregnancy
Tutorial 4
Visit 4: 6 - 9 months old
Tutorial 6
Visit 6: 15 - 18 months old
Tutorial 7
Visit 7: 2 years old
Term 2 Tutorial 2
Visit 2: during late pregnancy
Term 3 Tutorial 3
Visit 3: at age 0 - 3 months
Tutorial 5
Visit 5: 12 - 15 months old
Summary of the table's contents

Visiting the family

Students are allocated a family to visit as a pair. They telephone the family in advance to discuss when is a convenient time for a visit, normally for around 1 hour. The family are told what subject areas will be discussed and that notes will be taken. The next visit is agreed at the end, or by subsequent contact.

Students are encouraged to keep in touch with their family during the summer and to let the course coordinator know if they experience any difficulty in making contact. In these cases the coordinator will contact the family on the students' behalf or if necessary find another family for them to visit. Students are asked to direct all queries regarding confidentiality or consent issues for their family to the course coordinator who will consult the course leads.
Students are told not to offer a medical opinion if asked for one but to recommend an appropriately qualified person to ask such as the family's GP. If students make any recording of their family during a visit this can only be played at the tutorial following that visit after which it must be deleted.

The tutorials and associated visits throughout 'Follow My Footsteps' offer students tremendous scope for learning and gaining longitudinal experience based on a family's real-life situations.