Nursing students spread message on risky behaviour

November 29, 2011 - 8:14am

Vancouver Island University Bachelor of Science in Nursing students hope to make a difference educating youth about the risks of poor decision-making and alcohol use.


The students are assisting staff at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni Thursday with the P.A.R.T.Y. presentation aimed at grade 10 students. High school students will see in graphic detail what might happen if they were injured in a car accident.


P.A.R.T.Y., which stands for Prevent Alcohol Related Trauma in Youth, is a program originally developed in 1986 by emergency room (ER) nurses in Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. It’s been offered to grade 10 students on Vancouver Island through the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) since 2007.


“It’s a hospital based health promotion program targeted at youth that promotes injury prevention through reality based education,” explained VIU student Heather Spaven. “The program seeks to empower youth to recognize risks and make smart decisions about their activities and behaviours.”


P.A.R.T.Y. emphasizes the idea that injuries are not accidents - they don’t just happen, but are the result of a series of personal decisions – decisions like choosing to wear a seatbelt, choosing not to drive under the influence of alcohol, and choosing to make a plan to get home safely before going out.


The presentation takes place in a hospital setting where high school students attend an introductory session presented by an emergency room physician. They visit various stations that simulate what would happen to them if they were injured in an accident.


“They see where they might go from a crash scene through to the emergency room, rehab or even the morgue,” said Spaven. Physicians, nurses, student nurses and other emergency care providers assist with the presentations.


“What the students see and hear in the trauma room is graphic and realistic,” said nursing student Cathy Lucas-Conway. “We make up a mock dummy of an accident victim. We use make-up and simulated blood to make the situation as true to life as possible. It has an impact.”


The VIU students have been volunteering with P.A.R.T.Y. since last year, and receive course credit as part of their Nursing degree.


Pending VIHA ethics approval, the students hope to begin a research project looking at the program’s former use of guest speakers to help get the message out to students.


“In 2008/9 funding for the P.A.R.T.Y program was re-evaluated and the decision was made to stop using paid professional keynote speakers as part of the presentation,” Spaven explained. “The program has continued without them, but in our view, it doesn’t have the same effective impact.”


“The purpose of the study is to compare the self-reported risk taking behaviours of grade 12 students who have previously attended a P.A.R.T.Y intervention with a keynote speaker and those students who have attended a presentation without a keynote speaker,” said Spaven. “We want to find out whether a keynote speaker adds to the student’s retention of the key P.A.R.T.Y. messages.”


Once the project is approved, Spaven and her classmates will conduct their research in Port Alberni. They will write a report and share their findings with community stakeholders.


“As nursing students we enjoy working with the P.A.R.T.Y. and plan to continue collaborating with all involved in the program and the community,” said Spaven. “It has been an enriching experience to be part of a prevention program and feel like we are making a difference with youth.”



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