‘Little Hands in the OR’ offers students inside look at career in healthcare

(ROCKWALL, TX – Dec. 14, 2015) For most of us, a trip to the operating room usually ends with us waking up in a hospital bed with no memory of what occurred. Rarely do we get to witness an actual surgery, or even know what goes on in the OR.

But for 32 sixth and seventh graders from Heritage Christian Academy, the “Little Hands in the OR” program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall gave students the opportunity to experience all that and more.

Karen Casey, Texas Health Rockwall’s Community Education Coordinator/Educator, helped organize this year’s field trip, which took place Nov. 13. Cindy Paris, Texas Health Rockwall President, originally created the program back in the early 1990’s in Fort Worth, with the goal of inspiring young minds to choose a career in healthcare, especially one in perioperative services.

The three-hour educational journey gave HCA students access to real-life hospital scenarios, including demonstrations of sterile processing of surgical instruments and infection control practices that are performed routinely inside the hospital. They watched a video documenting a patient’s surgical trip through Texas Health Rockwall – from the admitting process, through a successful gallbladder removal, to the patient’s recovery and eventual dismissal. They even put on sterile scrubs and tried their hand at using surgical instruments.

With a test dummy as their patient, the students took turns manipulating tools to go inside the dummy and place several small toy monkeys in a barrel, in an entertaining, educational and G-rated simulation of an actual surgery.

The students were also treated to a lesson on joint replacement, as well as a lively demonstration by anesthesiologist Dr. Marc Brown, who explained his role and how he keeps patients comfortable throughout the process.

“I liked hearing the students’ unusual questions,” Dr. Brown said. “It’s nice to see some open minds picking up on what goes on inside a hospital and an operating room, when it’s very clear that most of them have no idea when they first walk through the door. In just the few hours spent here, they are able to get a real education.”

Donald Chitanda, Texas Health Rockwall Infection Control Coordinator, discussed the importance of proper hand-washing and the role it plays in patient safety. He demonstrated how quickly and easily germs can spread. A couple students had their hands sprayed with fake germs; then gave their classmates high fives or handshakes. Using ultraviolet light, the students were able to see just how much of the germs they had passed on.

To conclude their visit, the group then partnered up for a lesson in CPR. In pairs, the kids took turns performing CPR on test dummies (one adult, one infant) to the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees.

Eleven-year-old Joy Thacker, an HCA sixth grader, said the gall bladder surgery video and CPR were her favorites of the afternoon.

“I liked that the CPR was hands-on,” she said. “In case I got stuck in that situation, I’d know just what to do.”

The students of Heritage Christian Academy left the hospital with a better vision of what a career in healthcare might offer, and the staff of Texas Health Rockwall was proud to share their passion for healthcare, which may guide the path for a future medical student.

Story and photos by Austin Wells. Editor Dawn Redig contributed to this article.

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