Prom and graduation season is here. So, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford is hosting high school students for an intense half-day program that encourages them to make smart choices.
Let's Not Meet By Accident is a free, educational community outreach program on the hospital grounds that takes place from 9am to 1pm. Students from Enfield, East Granby, Hartford, Coventry and Wethersfield have taken part in the program.
"It starts at the helipad where the LifeStar crew and a trauma nurse explains to them why they would be transported on LifeStar by not making a healthy, safe choice," says Marisol Feliciano, Violence and Injury Prevention Program Coordinator. "For us, a trauma can happen any day of the year but from May to August, people are more active. Teens are more active. There are more parties, less exams being asked of them...we want to be sure we get the word out during this time."
The kids then head to the trauma bay of the emergency department where a surgeon and/or nurse presents the ABCs of care for a trauma patient. "We actually use one of the teens as a sample patient," says Feliciano, noting the interactive nature of the presentation. "They don't want to be given a brochure. They don't want to sit in lecture after lecture."
The teens do listen to a moving guest speaker, usually someone who has suffered a significant loss, such as the death of a child due to drunk driving. In addition to teaching the high school students the real-life consequences of their choices, the program also shows kids - on the cusp of pursuing their areas of interests in college - what the medical world is all about. "We want to engage them while we have them to say, 'Hey, here are all the options you have. You have so much to live for. Let's make the safer, healthier choice so you're not put in these predicaments," says Feliciano.
According to the AAA Foundation, 963,000 drivers ages 16-19 were involved in police-reported car crashes in 2013 which resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths. The most common forms of distraction are interacting with other passengers and cell phone use.
Feliciano thinks moms and dads should learn, too: "A lot of parents need to realize that they have to be committed to this and it should be a priority to them to educate and have that conversation with their teen, 'You're going to be going out with friends. Let's talk about your back-up plan....If you notice the designated driver drinks, call me. You will not get in trouble.' That conversation needs to happen and it needs to happen now."
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