TouroCOM Montana Hosts 'Docs N Tots' to Ease Children's Fear of Doctors Through Play

First-Year Medical Students Reflect on Valuable Lessons from Working with Children

March 18, 2024
TouroCOM Montana medical students engage with young children at the Great Falls Public Library through the \'Docs N\' Tots\' program.
First-year medical students Rosa Dale-Moore and Dylan Cruz interact with children at the Great Falls Public Library.

The doctor's office can be a scary place for kids. To make the experience better, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) Montana has launched "Docs and Tots" in partnership with the Great Falls Public Library and Toby's Place. The program aims to provide kids with a fun and educational opportunity to learn about medical tools and procedures in a relaxed setting while also allowing medical students to interact with children.

Susie Zeak, Director of Toby's House Crisis Nursery in Great Falls, is the inspiration behind a program that aims to help children feel more comfortable during visits to the doctor. The idea for the program came to her after her daughter had a positive experience with a nurse who calmed her down at the doctor's office.  

As someone who works with children, Susie understands how scary a visit to the doctor can be for them. “The program's primary goal is building trust with children and integrating medical students into the community. To see the students interact with the children and parents is heartwarming.”  

Through activities like coloring medical books and playing with toy medical devices, children can engage with equipment while helping to alleviate their fears about medical environments. 

“Volunteering helps decompress, and I love kids,” said Madeyln Oliva, a first-year medical student. “This program is a great way to reduce stress after exams and learn how kids communicate.” 

Students volunteer weekly at Toby’s House and will participate in future ‘Docs and Tots’ events at the Great Falls Public Library.  

“Experiencing different personalities and age groups has been great for everyone,” said Alyssa Hart, a first-year medical student. “Learning to read the kid's reactions and how they respond to you and  sensory tools is great for role-playing and easing anxiety about doctor visits.”  

The program also aims to provide parents with immunizations, growth, and development resources.    

“Eventually, we would like to work with a community partner to take the program to a clinical setting, which would help measure the program's effectiveness,” said Heather Harvey, Associate Course Director, Public Health, and Preventative Medicine Associate Professor of Public Health 

In the meantime, Docs n Tots has been an important way for TouroCOM to interact with and help the local community.