EAST LIVERPOOL -
It's a muggy, cloudy August evening. A subway car is traveling southbound from Pittsburgh, headed to Wheeling, with six passengers on board. Suddenly, the passengers are thrown from their seats as the car screeches off the rails and comes to a rest on its side.
The passengers are trapped inside the wrecked car. A few are merely scratched and bruised, shaken up. One is unconscious, bleeding from a severe head injury. All have been exposed to sulfuric acid, chlorofluorocarbons and, possibly, anthrax.
Brittany Mesler removes surgical tools from a sterile box during a visit to the operating room.
Alex Bielskis practices compressions on a manikin during CPR training.
This was the scenario created by local high school students taking part in the Medical Career Exploration Club at East Liverpool City Hospital. The group has been meeting monthly at the hospital, visiting different departments and speaking with local health care professionals as they followed each of the "patients" of the "accident" throughout the course of their treatment.
After the scenario was created, each member was given a victim list, with the names and ages of each patient, along with their injuries. At the next meeting, Marty Thorn, director of operations at Tri-County Ambulance, spoke with the group, explaining what the medic crew would do at the scene of the accident and how each patient's injuries would be evaluated. The students also learned about the care that is given in the ambulance during the transport to the hospital. Six students volunteered to act as the victims, and one was placed on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance, while the other students looked on.
Once the ambulance reached the emergency room at the hospital, the students then were given the opportunity to go out on to the hospital's helipad, where a helicopter from Air Evac Lifeteam was waiting to transport the most critical victims to Pittsburgh hospitals. Flight Medic Ian Chamberlain answered questions and shared information about his job duties and what happens during a medical flight while the students had the chance to take a peek inside the helicopter.
"That was my favorite part (of the experience)," said Paige Mesler, a freshman at Beaver Local High School. "It would have been cool to actually ride the helicopter. Maybe next year?" she asked hopefully.
Back in the ER for the next meeting, clinical director Laila Richards described how each of the other patients would be treated upon arrival. Students were shown the decontamination shower, where each victim would be taken first to remove any contaminants they may have been exposed to. In an examination room, Richards showed students the equipment used to treat and monitor patients. One student volunteered to be hooked up to a heart monitor.
During the next meeting, the group visited the radiology department. Director Donna Burskey gave an overview of the different specialties within radiology as well as the job duties and education necessary for someone to work in each of these areas. They then toured the radiology department and were able to observe a pediatric patient getting an X-ray.
A few students who volunteered to act as the patients were positioned to receive the types of X-rays that would be done on the patients in their scenario, based on their injuries.
The next stop was the lab, where director Delmas Postlethwait shared information about all the job opportunities in laboratory services. During a tour of the hospital lab, students were given the opportunity to look at blood and tissue samples under a microscope and learned about the blood bank and how a patient in need of blood receives it.
After learning that one of their patients had unfortunately not survived her injuries, a visit to the morgue was in order. Brandi Phillips, an investigator with the Columbiana County Coroner's Office, used a Power Point presentation to give the students a glimpse into a day on the job in her position. She also opened up her "work bag" to show the students the tools she uses to perform a variety of tests on patients in an effort to determine the cause of death.
Phillips then led the students into the basement to the morgue and spoke further about her job responsibilities as students gathered around the cold metal table where Phillips does much of her work.
The students' reactions ranged from "creepy" to "awesome!"
"It sounds like an interesting job, but there's no way I could ever do it," said Margo Jones, a junior at Oak Glen High School.
The group also toured the Cardiovascular Department, led by director Stacie Call, and learned about the cardiac testing and rehabilitation services offered at the hospital. Call explained that a treadmill, bike and other exercise equipment are used under medical supervision as part of a patient's cardiac rehabilitation program, and patients usually see remarkable results during their recovery from a heart attack or surgery.
A highlight of the Medical Career Exploration program was a visit to the surgery department. Director Amber McGeehan stressed the importance of a sterile surgical environment and gave each student surgical suits and masks to don before entering the department. She then showed the students how to scrub their hands and arms to the elbow and gave everyone the opportunity to practice at the bay of sinks near the procedure rooms. The students also practiced the technique of putting on surgical coats and aprons as well as gloves while keeping themselves and everything in the procedure room sterile. They also were shown a box of sterile surgical instruments, and McGeehan explained how the tools are used and accounted for during surgery.
"This is the coolest thing I have ever done," said Miles McGinnis, a junior at Wellsville High School.
The staff at the ELCH Therapy Center in Calcutta also welcomed the group, with physical therapist Jennifer Dawson and occupational therapy assistant Darla Riska sharing information about their job duties and the services offered at the Therapy Center. Riska showed the students the equipment that is used during treatment, and they experimented with the items that are used to stretch and improve flexibility in patients.
The program wrapped up in May with CPR training. Each student attending the training became a certified CPR provider - a skill that will enhance any resume or college application.
"River Valley Health Partners is committed to the overall health of our community," said Kenneth Cochran, President and CEO of River Valley Health Partners. "Our hospital's Medical Explorer Program provided two key educational opportunities to our youth. They had firsthand experience working within the healthcare environment. More importantly, they experienced the reality of what happens during traumatic moments of our human lives."
"We really wanted to provide a unique opportunity to the students, something that they could get only as a member of this group," said Jennifer Thorn, who helped to coordinate the program. "We included several hands-on activities and experiences, to keep them interested enough to come back the next month. And I think it was a success."
"We hope this experience invites them to work within the healthcare industry, and make good life decisions such as declaring they will not text nor drink while driving," added Cochran.
For more information about the Medical Career Exploration Club, or to register a student for the next session, which will begin in September, contact Thorn at 330-386-4000.