Two students in suits
Among the interactive breakout sessions for students yesterday was trying to avoid contamination from chocolate pudding – representing potential infection – when removing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) put on to treat a patient. (Photo: UHN)​

From throwing around chocolate pudding to thinking of the best ways to get everyone in their school sick, outsiders can be forgiven if they didn't understand exactly what was happening with the Grade 11 Student Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) workshop, hosted at UHN.  

"It's one of the more interactive education sessions we get to put together, tapping into the educator in each of us, and aligns closely with UHN's principles of giving back to community and teaching," says AnnMarie Tyson, Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

It started with a request to provide some IPAC education back in 2014 for Grade 11 students enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major program focused on health and wellness.

"One of the requirements is that they get IPAC training, that's where IPAC comes in," says Leeanne Bouteiller, Experiential Learning Educator, UHN-TDSB Partnership.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for students," she says. "They get so much from the day; opening doors to career options they didn't even know existed in healthcare.

"It's the kind of exposure that can fuel their interest and change someone's life path."

Since that first session three years ago, more than 250 co-op high school students and their teachers have cycled through the workshop. And it continues to grow. This year's workshop, which took place yesterday, outgrew the IPAC space so a new location was needed to host more than 120 students.

"We asked initially if IPAC would consider some training," Leeanne says. "Since then, it's become the only game in town. No one can do it any better. Word has gotten around and it's grown in demand and popularity.

"The students love it. We consistently have more requests than what we can fit."

Two students holding up pie plates
Another session saw students use green and red plates to vote true or false to various questions posed about infection control myths. (Photo: UHN)

The workshop tries to choose sessions that Grade 11 students can take back and use in their daily lives.

"We try to keep the topics current with what's popular in the media and with current events, but we always hit the fundamentals of infection control, exposing students to lesser known yet vitally important career options in healthcare," says Sarah Zanchettin, Infection Control Practitioner.

This year's workshop included speakers discussing Infection Control, international spread of infectious diseases, Antimicrobial Stewardship, Toronto Public Health, Liberating Structures coaching from UHN's IGNITE Consulting, different career paths and more.

The students had a chance to partake in interactive breakout sessions on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), using chocolate pudding to demonstrate how to put on and take off PPE while avoiding contamination, debunk and discuss common infection control myths as part of the IPAC Mythbusters, and see how chocolates can be used to learn about stool documentation as part of the Chocolate Bristol Stool Chart.

"The workshop highlights Infection Control as a diverse profession, which mirrors the diversity of the staff of UHN and students that attend," says AnnMarie says. "It's a lesson we can all learn from and take outside of the workplace, that sharing knowledge and expertise to our community is important."

"We've been planning this expanded workshop for months," says Anita Marques, Infection Control Specialist. "It's all built on volunteer hours. It's always busy juggling the needs of the hospital, but at the end of it all, it's really rewarding."

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