Island Health alcohol and risk-related trauma program goes virtual

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Vancouver Island high school students will learn about trauma from survivors and emergency services personnel virtually this year.

Under normal circumstances, grade 10 students and their teachers travel to a local hospital for the P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) program, but cannot this year because of COVID-19 related visitor restrictions.  

This year they will learn virtually from police officers, paramedics, firefighters, emergency room doctors, nurses, forensic nurse examiners and trauma survivors.

“The most difficult thing for me switching to a virtual delivery was having to take what was a 40-minute presentation in the hospital and distill it down to 10 minutes, since the virtual program is shorter,” said Jeff Eisen, an emergency room physician who has volunteered with the program since 2014. 

“But I love how the students are keen to ask questions and I think my message resonates with them.”

The program follows the path of an injured patient, from their accident or crash scene, to the emergency room, rehabilitation and recovery. Most injuries are both predictable and preventable, according to Island Health. The program teaches teenagers to recognize dangerous situations to help them make informed choices and minimize injury risk. 

Some of the volunteers are using web-based video conferencing for the first time, while other volunteers work behind the scenes to facilitate the sessions, field questions from teachers and students and play videos, Island Health said. 

Brain injury survivor Brenda Clayton said she learned how to share her car crash story virtually using her tablet. 

“I practice my presentation with Island Health staff before interacting with the students so that I remember how to do it without cutting anybody off,” said Clayton.

The program highlights what happens when a young person makes a decision that results in an injury, such as permanent brain or spinal cord damage, burns, paralysis and even death.

Retired paramedic George Sedola shares stories with the students about what it was like for him as a paramedic to be the first responder on the scene ofan accident. 

“I’m an old guy who isn’t that tech-savvy with computers, so it’s been an adjustment for me to learn how to use new technology and shorten my presentation,” he said. “But if I can impact just one young person to know better and do better, then it was worth my time.” 

Island Health said it is fortunate to work with dedicated volunteers from across Vancouver Island who are passionate about making a difference with youth, even during a pandemic.

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