Julie in StreetLab
Julie is seen in StreetLab at Toronto Rehab, University Centre, where scientists study participants as they safely navigate through simulated, 3D streetscapes as a way to test mobility devices, hearing aids and other technology that can help people live safely and independently. (Photo: UHN)

It was the annual teenagers' look into UHN – from the work of numerous healthcare professions, to the state-of-the-art technology used in patient care, to a glimpse at some of the research done here.

The 2016 version of Take Our Kids to Work Day saw about 200 Grade 9 students – all sons and daughters of UHN staff – make their way through one of the four hospitals yesterday.

Volunteer Resources across UHN, in partnership with staff from clinical, administrative and research departments, prepared an amazing program that gave the students a snapshot of what happens here daily.

Take Our Kids to Work Day was founded in 1994 by The Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization promoting and supporting publicly-funded education in Canada. It began in the Greater Toronto Area but now spans the country and happens in November every year.

It began at UHN under the leadership of Emma Pavlov as a corporate initiative in 2006.

The day began similarly for all students – with introduction and orientation. From there, clinical, research and other staff took time from their busy schedules to teach, inspire and excite the Grade 9s at Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto Rehab.

Olivia in TGH Respiratory Therapy
In the Respiratory Therapy Dept. at TGH, Olivia tries her hand at suctioning with a breathing tube. (Photo: UHN)​

At Toronto General and Toronto Western, different groups of students visited the Medical Laboratory Program, rotating through Surgical Pathology, Immunohematology and Core Lab.  Some spent time with Nursing, the Allied Health professions such as Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Language Pathology, Respiratory Therapy, Nutrition and Social Work, while others visited Pharmacy.

Olivia said she wanted to come to the Respiratory Therapy Dept. because she is interested in healthcare. At TGH, she tried her hand at simulating suctioning with a breathing tube.

"This is pretty cool," Olivia said. "You feel good about it because if this was a real person, you would be helping him or her."

In Nursing, they discussed the different roles within the profession, opportunities for research and teaching, the various clinical environments, the utilization of technology and the impact of new technologies. 

When students visited the various Allied Health professions and Pharmacy, they learned about different roles and areas of practice, utilized different equipment in a rehab gym, learned about different food textures, intubation, compounding and the packaging of medications.

Other students visited Central Processing, Nuclear Cardiology and Neuro-Psychology.  They learned about diverse modes of sterilization for instruments used in the Operating Room (OR), discussed the effects on a patient who underwent deep brain stimulation and saw images of a heart before and after a heart attack.

Three kids in protective gear
At Toronto Western Hospital, students visited the Joint Department of Medical Imaging, or JDMI, where they learned how to do isolation gowning before using a portable X-ray machine to scan a patient who may be contagious. (Photo: UHN)

A number of groups visited Medical Imaging, Medical Engineering, Telehealth and Human Factors, where they learned about biomedical devices and technology, imaging technology, the way technology is used to provide health care and education to patients when clinicians and patients are located far from each other, and the overall positive impact that technology is having on healthcare.

"It's been really interesting to learn about what my step-dad does and everything behind X-rays and stuff," said Max at TWH. "I thought the ultrasound machine was really cool because you can see everything on the inside of the body."

A number of students learned about transplantation while those who visited the Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis Program and Hand Program had the opportunity to make splints and casts as well as view computer simulations.  Those who visited the OR at TWH participated in a laparoscopic simulation, practiced suturing and learned about anatomy, while those who spent time with the Community and Mental Health Program visited an addictions centre.   

Research at TGH and TWH provided the students with insights on computer simulations, medicinal chemistry, computational neuroscience, NMR Spectroscopy, imaging and traditional/non-traditional science careers.

At Princess Margaret, students learned about the breadth of the cancer programs available to patients (both clinical and supportive), as well as about cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. 

They also visited such unique areas as the Wig Salon, the Image Guided Therapy Lab, Eye and Facial Prosthetics, Dental Oncology and ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre, where they were treated to a nutritional cooking demonstration by Chef Geremy.

Group shot of kid trying on wig
Students were able to try on the wigs in the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's Wig Salon with the help of wig specialist Sherry Sadeghi. (Photo: UHN)

Students even had a chance to see the huge generators that power the cancer centre and peek at the rooftop for a bird's eye view of the city. Radiation Imaging played a game using slides to show all the different things that people have swallowed and how x-rays help to provide a diagnosis.

"I am interested in today because I actually like doing research," said Tanishq, who has one parent who is a physician at the Princess Margaret and one who is an anesthesiologist at another Toronto hospital. "I find cancer quite interesting and love sciences, I don't know why," adding with a laugh that maybe science and research run in his blood.

At Toronto Rehab, students were given a tour of their areas revealing new technologies and the strong impact of advances in technology on rehabilitation and overall treatment of patients.

They had the opportunity to test their response rate just like the elite athletes, participate with Therapeutic Recreation, tour through the iDapt Centre for Rehabilitation Research, learn how to make a splint, and see firsthand the miracles that are performed in the lives of the patients in Rehab.

Julie was fascinated by the Challenging Environment Assessment LAB, or CEAL, a massive underground research facility, which is part of iDAPT.

"It's really cool," Julie says. "They're doing testing that will really help people – by recreating real-world environments."

Through hands-on activities, demonstrations, presentations, simulations, video, role playing and discussion with clinical and non-clinical staff, the Grade 9 students were able to get a sense of the diversity of healthcare as well as the many exciting roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals.​

A special thank you to all staff involved at UHN in planning the day, finding time in their hectic schedules to show a new generation of kids about healthcare and how their roles impact the patients that come through our doors.  And a final thank you to the staff in Volunteer Resources and Human Resources, to Katherine Wyslobocki in HR, to Core Catering, to Support Services, (Laundry), IPAC, Shoppers, and the volunteers and HR interns who assisted and made the day so successful.​

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