East Detroit students learn about emergency room work

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 31, 2016

 Dr. Margarita Pena, medical director of St. John Hospital & Medical Center’s Clinical Decision Unit and associate program director of emergency medicine, instructs student Kenneth Matthews on proper CPR technique. Student Tyra Evans observes the lesson.

Dr. Margarita Pena, medical director of St. John Hospital & Medical Center’s Clinical Decision Unit and associate program director of emergency medicine, instructs student Kenneth Matthews on proper CPR technique. Student Tyra Evans observes the lesson.

Photo provided by Gina Carrier

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EASTPOINTE — Students from East Detroit High School visited St. John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit April 29 as part of an “Emergency Department Day” to learn about the emergency room and the work done there.

According to Dr. Margarita Pena, the associate program director for emergency medicine and medical director for the Clinical Decision Unit at St. John, students have been participating in these programs for a few years from Grosse Pointe South High School, but this was the first time that East Detroit students visited.

“We give them an opportunity to have hands-on experience with some of the different procedures that we do as emergency physicians,” Pena said.

Over the course of about three hours, the 21 students rotated between several stations to learn about — and try — performing basic life support measures using a mannequin, operating an epinephrine auto-injector, operating an automated external defibrillator, viewing a patient’s airway, attaching a splint, and operating an ultrasound machine and interpreting its images, Pena said.

At the end of the session, the students had the chance to talk to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and technicians and ask questions about their roles, their work and their importance to the team, she added, including what steps students would need to take to become members of an emergency room team.

“I think it introduces high school students (to our work) and gets them thinking on whether a career in the medical field is something they’d be interested in, by giving them this hands-on opportunity,” Pena said. “It gives them an opportunity to see how exciting it is and the different things it entails.”

Kathy Callahan, a Michigan Works grant coordinator at East Detroit High School, said she works with a group of students who apply for a program about career and college readiness. Part of that program involves visiting local organizations to teach them more about the jobs and fields available.

“St. John Hospital was gracious enough upon contacting them to let us come in and go for a day at the hospital emergency department,” Callahan said. “We want to expose them to so many different things, even if they don’t know what they want to do. We show them and they can decide if that’s something they want to do or not.”

She said the hands-on section was popular, and the question-and-answer session with hospital staff was particularly informative to students, as the staff was forthcoming in responses to questions that ranged from how to keep from getting emotionally invested in patients to dealing with student debt from medical school.

Pena said that it was great to see so many students excited about careers in the medical field, and that the hospital hopes to do more programs like this one in the future with East Detroit students.

Callahan said they are simply waiting on the school’s official calendar for the next school year to determine exactly when students will be able to come back to St. John Hospital. She added that some kids are not looking to wait that long, however, and already are looking into volunteering there for the summer, fall and winter.

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