On November 28, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an event at the Six Nations Reserve, hosted by the Aboriginal Student Health Sciences (ASHS) Office.
"Come Explore Health Careers Day" was an opportunity for various medical professional students at McMaster University to provide Grade 8 students at the J.C. Hill School in Ohsweken, ON, exposure to a variety of health careers. Our group consisted of 15 students from Medicine, Nursing and myself! I was super excited to work McMaster students from the other faculties, understand more about their roles, and share the role of Physician Assistants in medicine and health care teams.
We began our day by handing out awesome T-shirts to all the Gr. 8 students, which were designed by some lovely folks at ASHS. This was followed by an icebreaker with the Gr. 8 students that led us to discuss the roles of medical professionals such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, midwives, OTs, PTs. I was pleasantly surprised that these students had a great understanding of the roles played by most of these professions!Ear
The icebreaker was followed by a presentation from an Elder of Six Nations, who spoke to the group about Traditional Medicine. I was so impressed with her presentation because she molded Aboriginal values with the use of medicine, while placing great emphasis on expressing emotions such as hurt, grief and anger. My favorite part of this session was when she described the importance of giving hugs to one another! She said, "It is important for our hearts to touch and that in itself is a form of medicine". I strongly believe that teaching affection and care to pre-teens is extremely vital to their development and success as teens and adults.
Engaging Clinical Activities
The rest of the afternoon was broken in to 4 sessions through which the students rotated: Infectious Disease, Sign/Symptoms of Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack), Cardiothoracic Anatomy and Clinical Skills. These stations allowed us to teach students about the importance of hygiene and preventing the spread of disease; identifying the signs and symptoms of community members experiencing a heart attack; hands-on exploration of pig pluck (heart, lungs, trachea); and common medical skills.
I had the fortunate opportunity to be involved in this latter station where we showed students how to use a pen light to check pupillary reflexes. We also had some great laughs using tongue depressors in each other's mouths (the uvula totally freaked them out while making them giggle at the same time!). We also used the pen light to look into each other's noses (mainly mine!). One of the med students and I took turns showing the kids how to use blood pressure cuffs and measured blood pressure on all of us. The nursing students had set up an AMAZING Wound Care station by simulating lacerations on butternut squash! The students were absolutely fascinated by this station and learned to drape and cover large cuts.
Spreading Awareness about Physician Assistants
Not only did I get to show these students the cool clinical skills we've acquired so far, I was also able to engage discussions about the role of PAs with both the medical school students as well as the nurses. Both nursing and medical students were quite curious about our profession - they had some great questions and we had lengthy conversations about the education of PAs, our capabilities and our place in the health care system. Furthermore, gaining exposure to life on the reserve was such a valuable experience.
Get Involved in Spring 2015
The Six Nations Reserve is about a 40-minute drive from campus and there are multiple university groups that are connected with the reserve through research, medicine and education. I would absolutely recommend getting involved in any of these ventures because they help us gain a better understanding of Native culture, traditions, as well as health care and educational issues specific to reserve life. During the spring of 2015, the ASHS Office will be holding an educational seminar on campus to expose Grade 12 students from the reserve to the different medical programs available at McMaster University. This would be a great opportunity for the PA program and our class to get involved!
Fun Fact: Earlier that afternoon, the 403 EB (Toronto) experienced a mudslide, which caused a lot of chaos all around the university - there was massive blockage of all roads in and out of the university, Westdale, Ancaster, Dundas and Cootes. The mudslide was caused by a burst water pipe but thankfully no one was hurt!
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