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Student blowing into hose
Grade 9 student breathes using a ventilator in respiratory therapy at Toronto Western Hospital as part of Wednesday’s annual Take Our Kids to Work Day at UHN. (Photo: UHN)

Some learned how to make a splint while others saw images of different objects people have swallowed and how X-rays can help provide a diagnosis. One experienced firsthand the process of what it's like to receive radiation therapy treatment and more learned how operating room instruments are sterilized.

It was a wide range of experiences for about 200 Grade 9 students – all sons and daughters of employees – as UHN hosted the annual Take Our Kids to Work Day on Wednesday.

For most, it was an eye-opening look around the workplaces their parents come to each day.

"I'm learning it isn't just about the doctors and nurses, there's other ways to help out in healthcare," Rogan, whose mom is a nurse at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, said after a tour of The iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology) Centre for Rehabilitation Research at Toronto Rehab. "I know engineers can help out by building simulators like you see here."

Volunteer Resources across UHN, in partnership with staff from clinical, administrative and research departments, prepared an amazing day giving the students a glimpse into healthcare professions, state-of-the-art technology utilized in patient care, and into some of the work and research occurring at UHN.

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 as a corporate initiative in 2006 under the leadership of Emma Pavlov, EVP HR and Organizational Development.

At the different sites, students began the day in a similar fashion with an introduction and orientation. 

Due to the ongoing renovation project at the Princess Margaret, students from there shared their morning with students at Toronto Rehab as part of the Young Innovators Program. 

This combined program provided the students, under the leadership of some passionate and talented researchers, with an up close and personal look at iDapt.  A tour of the research areas revealed new technologies and strong impact of advances in technology on rehabilitation and overall treatment of patients.

The two groups shared lunch with an enthusiastic exchange about their experiences that morning.

Woman taking pulse of student
Students learning from each other: Janet Hong, a nuclear medicine student at the Michener Institute, shows Grade 9 student, Laurence, how to administer and read an Electrocardiogram (ECG) test at Toronto General Hospital. (Photo: UHN)

The Princess Margaret students spent the afternoon learning 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 visited such unique areas as the Radiation Medicine Program, where one lucky student got to be the patient and experience firsthand the process for receiving radiation therapy.

Also at the cancer centre, Facilities gave an inside look into the mechanics of operating a large hospital and a birds eye view from the rooftop while Medical Imaging played a fun game using slides to show all the different objects that people have swallowed and how X-rays help to provide a diagnosis. 

At Toronto Rehab, students spent the afternoon with Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy (OT), Social Work, Speech Language Pathology, Research and Therapeutic Recreation.  They had the opportunity to try what it would be like to get dressed with limited ability as if they had suffered a stroke, participate with Therapeutic Recreation in a recreation activity, learn how to make a splint with OT, and see the miracles that are performed in the lives of the patients in Rehab. 

The feedback from students was immediate and extremely positive. 

"I learned a lot about the inventions there are in healthcare," said Emma, whose mom is a physiotherapist at Toronto Rehab. "I thought it was only helping patients, but now I see it's much more."

Across Toronto General and Toronto Western, groups of students visited the Medical Laboratory Program, rotating through Surgical Pathology and Immunohematology. 

Some students spent time with Nursing, the various Allied Health professions such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Respiratory Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Social Work and Pharmacy. 

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 on the profession. 

Boy balancing on one foot while holding tray
Students at Toronto Rehab did a balancing exercise as part of session on physiotherapy. (Photo: UHN Volunteer Resources)

Students who were exposed to the various Allied Health professions, utilized different equipment in a rehab gym, learned about different food textures, intubation and the packaging of medications using candies as well as how to make a cream.

Those who visited the Medical Device Reprocessing Dept., Nuclear Cardiology and Neuro-Psychology learned about the different modes of sterilization for instruments used in the operating room (OR), discussed the effects on a patient who underwent deep brain stimulation and also saw images of a heart pre and post heart attack.  

A number of students spent time with Medical Imaging, Medical Engineering, Telehealth, Human Factors and Techna where they learned about biomedical devices and technology, imaging technology, the way technology is used to provide healthcare and education to patients when large distances separate clinicians and patients, and the overall positive impact that technology is having on healthcare.

Other students learned about transplantation while those who rotated through the Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis Program and Hand Program had the opportunity to make splints and casts as well as view computer simulations.  

"Today is exciting because I get to see what my parents do every day and what they went to school for," said Victoria, whose both parents are nurses at Toronto General, said after a Medical Imaging rotation.

"I am considering going into healthcare, my whole family is in healthcare, so this helps me see what department I would want to go into."

Students playing with marshmallows and spaghetti
Grade 9 students whose parents work at the Princess Margaret participate in an ice-breaker activity during the morning session, which was held at Toronto Rehab due to on-going renovations at the cancer centre. (Photo: UHN)

Those who visited the OR at Toronto Western participated in a laparoscopic simulation, practiced suturing and learned about anatomy while students who spent time with the Community and Mental Health Program discussed mental health issues and visited an addictions centre.   

Research at TG facilitated students visiting the  Advanced Optical Microscopy Facility (AOMF) and STTARR (Spatio-temporal Targeting and Amplification of Radiation Response) facilities, while their counterparts at TW had students participate in a talk given by Dr. Valerie Wallace, Senior Krembil Scientist, Director of Vision Science Research and Chair of the Vision Science Research Program.

Students at TW also received a tour of the Kapoor lab, witnessed how research tools are being used to understand the complex pathophysiology of diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA) and identify new therapeutic strategies.

Through hands-on activities, demonstrations, presentations, simulations, video, role playing and discussion with clinical and non-clinical staff, the Grade 9s were able to get a sense of the diversity of roles and professions within healthcare.

"It was really interesting to see how things work around the hospital and what people do here," said Adrianna, whose dad works in Security at TW.

Thank you to all staff involved at UHN in planning the day, taking time out of their busy schedules to teach, inspire and excite a new generation of students about healthcare and how their roles impact the patients that come through our doors. 

And a special thank you to all staff who this year were involved in planning this day for the first time.

Finally, thank you to Volunteer Resources and Unpaid Non-Clinical Learners, Human Resources, Core Catering, FM-PRO (Laundry & Transportation) and Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto Western, IPAC, and the Volunteers and Human Resources interns who assisted and made the day so successful.

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