Mother with child at home

What is 'Follow My Footsteps'?

The Follow My Footsteps course is an opportunity for medical students to learn how families adapt to the changes that children bring to their lives, to learn about the importance of a healthy start to life, and to assess a child’s development.


Why do we need your family’s help?

Whilst much of medical student training is based in hospitals we think it is important that students meet families in their own homes and their own communities.

Being a good doctor involves treating people as individuals, and understanding their particular needs. We want students to learn about the different ways in which families raise their children and the different needs which families have from the healthcare service. We want students to visit a family over a period of change for that family, so they can develop the skills to care for the same patients with varying problems over time.


What does 'Follow My Footsteps' involve?

A mother's contact details are given to a pair of medical students by the course administrator at Imperial College London. Before the students initially make contact with the mother she is given their names by the course administrator. The students should have Imperial College London identification badges with them when they come to visit her.

Students will visit their allocated mother before and then after the birth of her baby, and then twice each year for a further two years. Visits will usually take place at her home, at a time that is convenient for her. As they get to know each other, we hope that the students will appreciate the challenges mothers face in caring for their children. If possible, students will gain a lot from attending a baby clinic or GP surgery with their mother. Students may ask permission to speak to her GP or Health Visitor.

During the course, we may ask a mother to complete a brief questionnaire about her students’ behaviour and attitudes during the visits and her views on the course. This will enable us to assess how professional the students have been and how well prepared they are for becoming doctors.

Students will also discuss their allocated family with tutors at Imperial College London and with their fellow students in seminars. At some visits, the students may request her permission to make a brief audio or video clip of their child, to show to their tutor group.

Naturally, anything a mother says to the students, any recordings, and the discussions which they have with their tutors and fellow students are presented without personal details such as name, address, date of birth, and are treated as strictly confidential.


What sort of things will the students want to know?

Anything and everything a mother can tell them about the care and development of her child will be of interest. They will also be interested in her experience of the health services, and in the environmental influences on her and her child’s health such as her living circumstances and social and family support.

We want students to learn about the different influences on young children and how they affect a child’s health throughout life. We also want them to appreciate the other sources of support and help that mothers have.

At some visits, the students will make measurements and assessments of the child, (nothing intrusive or uncomfortable). If they have concerns about their findings they will discuss these with a children’s specialist at Imperial College London who will feed back any advice to the mother or her GP as appropriate. If she develops a good rapport with the students they may request to visit her more frequently and she is welcome to do this if she wishes, or refuses if she does not wish to do this.


Why do pregnant women participate in Follow my Footsteps?

“I wanted to participate in some kind of study whilst I was pregnant as I think it's a good way to do something useful that can help others. The way Follow my Footsteps is structured made it easy to commit to and it seemed like it was a good programme to be involved in. 

“It was my first pregnancy, and it sounded like support to have medical students following my steps”


What do mothers say about their experience of participating in Follow my Footsteps?

“The students were very courteous and very accommodating in fixing appointments. Their visits were warm and they showed a lot of affection towards my little one. Did not feel like a chore to have them over.”

“It was a nice experience for us to have as a family. It was interesting to get an insight into the life of a young doctor, and it was good to be able to provide a perspective on what it's like for families that have children. “

“Our two students seem genuinely interested in our family and how we're getting on since the birth of our daughter. They're engaged, down to earth and very accessible. They were very friendly and great listeners, which is very supportive for a first-time mother”

“It has been a great experience, to have two compassionate students following my baby’s steps and given me the time to reflect on the journey I was taking with my baby.”


What to do if there are problems?

We expect and hope that mothers will enjoy helping with this part of student training, however, if there are any problems or they have any questions, they can contact the Course Administrator, Andrew Wright (a.wright@imperial.ac.uk), telephone: +44 (0)20 3313 1932.

Mothers are free to withdraw from Follow My Footsteps at any time, and this would not affect their medical care in any way. It would also not affect the students’ examination marks.


How can you help?

If you would like to participate in Follow My Footsteps we would be delighted to hear from you at a.wright@imperial.ac.uk. We speak with mothers in September and October who are expecting their baby between February and May the following year and want to take part in the course. Our students visit their Follow My Footsteps mother both before she gives birth and afterwards, allowing them to witness the changes the experience makes to her and her family's life.