“They talk to trauma surgeons, police, paramedics, physical therapists and they talk to injury survivors,” said Navenka Francis, a trauma clinical nurse consultant at Liverpool Hospital who leads the prevention program.
“We talk about the consequences of risk-taking behaviour and how it can affect them, and we also get them thinking about how it’s going to impact their families.”
The “prevent alcohol and risk-related trauma in youth” program was developed by emergency departments in Canada in the 1980s based on data that showed an over-representation of young people coming in to hospitals.
Ms Francis said a 10-year review tracking students who had participated in the program alongside those who had not found that the ones who had participated had a relatively lower rate of presentation in hospitals.
“The program works well with what they already do in the school environment, where they learn about risk-taking behaviours – the difference is that we bring them into the hospital,” Ms Francis said.
Andrew Smith, who is a careers adviser at All Saints, said the school selects about 40 students in year 10 to participate.
“I honestly do think it’s much more valuable to get students at a younger age to start to think about their actions,” he said.
“The whole point is that you don’t get a second chance – you have to think before you act. The program is really confronting initially but it tends to have a positive effect on the students.
“You do see there’s a lot of growing up and maturing, you get a real change in attitude.”
The program, which is partly funded by the IMB Community Foundation, is also being run at the Royal North Shore and St George hospitals. Ms Francis said she eventually wants to see it in rural areas.
She said one of the major misconceptions about the program is that it was a “shock tactic”.
“It’s definitely not – it’s about providing children with accurate information and enabling them to make better and more informed choices,” Ms Francis said.
“Ideally we’d like to just put them in bubble wrap, but we can’t do that, so we show them what can happen and then give them strategies to get out of different situations and teach them how to look after each other if someone has done something silly.”
Education reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald