Julie Mauceri (left) leads high school students in a mock trauma resuscitation in the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre. Photo by Anne Sorvari

Students get TIPSY at injury prevention program

  • January 25, 2013

TORONTO - High school students are receiving a reality check on the dangers of drinking and drug abuse.

At Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, as part of the ThinkFirst Injury Prevention Program, known as TIPSY, students ages 16 to 19 spend half a day at the downtown hospital learning about injury prevention and having the opportunity to dabble in the medical field when learning how to check patients’ vital signs.

The program was officially launched in 2006, and has been offered almost every other Friday during the academic year.

A team of critical care and emergency room nurses and representatives of MADD Canada, Toronto Police Services, Safe and Sober Canada, a Voice of Injury Prevention (VIP) and the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre engage the students in a curriculum meant to drive home the program’s message.

“Our take home message is that the choice that they make could have an effect on them for the rest of their life,” said Julie Mauceri, a clinical nurse educator working in the Trauma and Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit who has co-ordinated the program since the pilot project in 2005.

“We thought it was our actual duty to reach out to the community,” said Liz Butorac, the clinical leader manager from the neurosurgery unit who also is one of the co-ordinators.

The students start off their morning by learning brain and spine anatomy, learning about common drugs, car crashes and why individuals in their age group end up in such accidents. They hear testimonies from people such as MADD’s Carolyn Swinson, who’s father and son were killed by drunk drivers. With Safe and Sober Canada, a father comes in and talks about his daughter’s death because of her own distracted driving.

Then there’s the VIP speaker who survived a car crash at age 17. His presentation is about what his life was like before the crash, during his stay in the hospital and 17 years later.

“We call brain injuries silent injuries because on the outside with the broken bones, the cut skin, we can fix that, that heals, but what happens on the inside, the brain or the spinal cord, doesn’t heal. So whatever damage occurs at the moment stays with him for the rest of his life,” said Mauceri.

The students also go on a tour of the trauma room of the emergency department. And when they get to the simulation centre, they find a mannequin that is programmed to be responsive in a way that mimics real patients. Students receive a demonstration from a doctor in tubing a patient to open the airway and are allowed to check the mock-patient’s respiratory rate with a stethoscope, among other things.

The students also receive a free lunch, sponsored by Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP, the law firm that sponsors the new TIPSY scholarship.

“We wanted to do something more and we came up with the idea of offering a scholarship for the students,” said Anne Sorvari, who works behind the scenes to co-ordinate with teachers, schools and speakers for the program.

With the scholarship, students who have attended TIPSY are invited to submit a video, blog, essay or other content to smhtipsy.weebly.com that demonstrates the program’s key messages. The contest runs until May 31 and the prize is $1,000.

Mauceri said the TIPSY team could just send the students home with a pencil, eraser or keychain. But “we want things to hit home,” said Mauceri.
“Having the scholarship, things will sink in better with them than sending them home with an eraser.” 


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