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RACINE — Last week, local high school students took a crack at stitching up and intubating patients, as well as test driving Ascension All Saints Hospital’s newest robotic surgical system.

The “patients” were only dummies, and students used the surgery robot to place small rings on cylinders and to unwrap Tootsie Rolls instead of performing operations. But the April 16 event exposed the approximately 300 students to a wide range of health care career options.

Dr. Beth Griffin, medical director of the emergency department at All Saints, and a few of her colleagues worked at a table teaching the students how to suture wounds, perform CPR and to put in a breathing tube, or intubate a patient.

“It’s cool for kids to see things that they would find fun and entertaining as something that’s in our daily lives at work and something that they would be really good at,” Griffin said.

Students from Horlick, Park, Walden, Case and Union Grove high schools attended the event last week, the first time All Saints, 3811 Spring St., invited a large group of students to learn about health care careers at the hospital.

Using the robot

Jaylen Love, a junior at Park High School, said he didn’t know much about all the different options in the health care field prior to attending the event.

“This whole experience gave me a lot of exposure to the different jobs that there are in hospitals, not just your primary care physician that you go to,” Love said.

Like many of his peers, Love’s favorite hands-on activity was using the da Vinci Xi robotic surgical system.

The students who “performed surgery” using the robot hooked their hands into the controls at the surgeon’s console while they viewed a three-dimensional image of what the robotic arms were doing a few feet away.

“It was pretty easy, actually,” Love said. “It feels like you’re actually there doing it, even though it’s like 3 feet away from you. It feels like I’m actually picking up the things. It felt like it was a part of me, kind of.”

JeNiyah Scaife, a junior at Case High School who also enjoyed working with the robot, said the technology “kind of blew my mind.”

Robots in surgery

Ascension has had da Vinci machines for several years, but the one students test drove is new, having just arrived at the hospital in February. The machines are used for laparoscopic surgery, or operations that use small incisions and are aided by a camera. Surgeons at All Saints use the robot to perform gynecological and urological operations, as well as for general surgery, using it in approximately 25 operations per week.

Rachel Greening, robotic coordinator at All Saints, said using the robot eliminates tremors in the video display, as during traditional laparoscopic surgeries the camera is held by an assistant. The robotic arms also have wrists, allowing for more movement than with traditional laparoscopic surgery.

“It’s fun connecting with the kids,” Griffin said. “It’s inspiring to me to see how excited they are and how interested they are in what we’re doing and to hopefully make an impact and see that this is something fun that they may be able to do in the future.”

“It’s inspiring to me to see how excited they are and how interested they are in what we’re doing and to hopefully make an impact and see that this is something fun that they may be able to do in the future.” Beth Griffin, medical director of the emergency department at Ascension All Saints Hospital
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Reporter

Caitlin Sievers covers cops, crime and the west-end communities. She's a lover of cats, dance and Harry Potter. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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