A PARTY like no other
A program showing the effects of risk-related behaviour and trauma is leaving its mark on students. Poppy Diamantis reports.
23 November 2022
Inside an inflatable emergency resuscitation room set up in Heathcote High School’s hall, there’s a party going on.
But with trauma surgeons, nurses, police and paramedics all on hand, it’s probably not the kind of get-together these Year 10 students are accustomed to.
The ‘PARTY’ in question is the Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) Program, developed by the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District’s trauma team.
It has been set up to engage Year 10 students on what can happen when someone is a victim of trauma from risk-taking behaviour, such as through drugs and alcohol.
An interactive initiative aimed at youth, the program teaches students about risk and how to make informed choices about risk-taking behaviour.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students from 16 schools across the St George and Sutherland Shire regions in Sydney would tour various wards of St George Hospital, where they would witness a confronting trauma re-enactment.
The pandemic put a pause on the program, with hospitals introducing visitor restrictions, which led Trauma and PARTY Clinical Nurse Consultant, Sarah O’Hare, to take the program into schools.
“We chat to the students about drugs, alcohol and other risk-taking behaviours and have some great open discussions with them about safety, risk, choices and consequences,” Ms O’Hare said.
Students also wear ‘drunk/drug goggles’ to experience the coordination challenges of being affected by drugs, alcohol and lack of sleep.
“One person will react differently to the effect of the goggles to the next, and this is a great conversation starter about how people respond to drugs and alcohol in different ways,” Ms O’Hare said.
“To recreate the simulation scene, arguably the most impactful part of the education program, the team use an inflatable resuscitation room, where doctors and nurses act out the trauma response.
“You can see the students are really engaged when they watch the trauma re-enactment. It’s great to be able to bring this element into the schools.”
Heathcote High School Principal Stephen Waser found the PARTY program to be beneficial in communicating to students the dangers of risk-taking behaviour, and highlighting the impact risky behaviour can have on students’ lives and the lives around them.
“Getting through to young people and asking them to consider consequences of risky behaviour isn’t always an easy task,” Mr Waser said.
“We are very fortunate to have the PARTY program at our school.
"The messages, practical workshops and hands-on experiences of the program have been invaluable in showing our students what life would be like if they had their arm amputated in an accident, or what can happen if they text and drive or drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”