Real-Life Experience without Real-Life Risk
Eden Trauma Team Teaches Teens about the Dangers of Drinking and Driving
CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. – Every 15 minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related car accident. That was the statistic in 1995 when a program called Every 15 Minutes was first adopted by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to give teens a real-life look at the dangers of drinking and driving.
Thankfully, fewer people die from alcohol-related car accidents these days, but drinking and driving by young people remains a problem—often because teens’ feelings of invincibility can lead to poor decision making.
To encourage teens to think about the consequences of their actions and to prevent alcohol-related car accidents, Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, the regional trauma center for southern Alameda County, has participated in the Every 15 Minutes program for the past 14 years.
The program offers real-life experience without real-life risk. Eden’s trauma nurses apply moulage makeup (mock injuries)
to the accident ‘victims’ to make them appear genuinely injured. Nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists and laboratory and radiology technicians from Eden’s trauma team work with public agencies, community organizations and local businesses to create a simulated traffic collision followed by rescue workers transporting “injured” students to Eden’s emergency department. The drama is videotaped and shared with students at a school assembly staged to look like a memorial service for the car crash “victims.”
Each Every 15 Minutes exercise, which takes place over two days, also involves the “living dead” –students who are removed from classrooms at 15-minute intervals to dramatize the toll of drunk driving. At an overnight retreat, students are taught strategies for making good decisions and learn how to be champions for not drinking and driving.
Says Eden’s trauma injury prevention specialist Pam Stoker, “From a training standpoint, Every 15 Minutes exercises are an excellent opportunity for our staff to run through a trauma in a practice situation. It’s not real, but they treat it as if it is, so it’s an opportunity for them to assess their skills and ask themselves how they could improve.”
“It’s also great for our trauma team from a morale standpoint,” Stoker continues, “Being part of prevention efforts is really important for the staff because they deal with the aftermath of tragic real-life alcohol-related accidents all the time. This is a way for them to try and make a difference in the community by working to prevent accidents before they happen.”
Eden’s trauma team helps run two Every 15 Minutes programs for local high schools each year, most recently for San Leandro High School and Amador High School in Pleasanton.
Participants in the recent programs included the Alameda County Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau and Court Services, The Braddock Foundation, California Highway Patrol, CALSTAR (the Air Medical Transport Provider for Sutter Health), Eden Medical Center Philanthropy, Paramedics Plus, Royal Ambulance, San Leandro Police Department and Santos-Robinson Mortuary.
“To see our own peers on stage, in the film, and act out the crash scene is incredibly powerful. We are able to see people we know and love, people we relate to, demonstrating the consequences of driving under the influence,” said San Leandro High School student, Lily Alvarez.