Seniors taking the biomedical course at the Science and Technology Magnet High School visited Yale-New Haven Hospital last week to see for themselves how the hospital uses medical technology to improve the way it treats its patients.
For a recent class assignment, magnet school teacher Janet Farquhar posed a real-life situation to her students in which a woman walked into the emergency room at a hospital, waited for hours and died before she was ever seen.
Farquhar's students were then asked to design their own emergency rooms and come up with ways that would prevent deaths of patients before they were seen by medical professionals. They designed their own emergency room blueprints, innovative technologies and explained how the patients would move through their emergency rooms efficiently.
Both the hospital's emergency room and children's emergency department are on the ground floor. Some of the high school students designed their emergency rooms on one floor, with open floor plans, unlike Yale-New Haven where there are many hallways and sections of each department.
"It takes too much time to wait for and then be put into an elevator," Dr. Karen Santucci, medical director and section chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Yale-New Haven, said. "We have to make an assessment and stabilize someone immediately."
Hannah Hedge said that she designed her emergency room in a "giant square" so that all activity in the emergency department was visible while Patricia Poitras designed her emergency room with an urgent and a non-urgent entrance.
"So there wouldn't be any traffic for those who were walking in and coming in by ambulance," Poitras said. "I like how this hospital has a separate children's emergency department entrance."
Santucci said the hospital sees about 34,000 children and 75,000 adults a year.
Students were also asked why the doors to the children's emergency department are secured and access is only granted with the swipe of the proper hospital ID.
"We're at constant risk of the potential for things to happen, like abduction," Santucci told the students. "The stakes are high and the risks are high."
All babies in the hospital are banded with bracelets that trigger alarms if certain areas are crossed. Hospital security teams respond immediately to the area where the alarm is tripped.
Santucci said that she wished the children's emergency department exam rooms were a bit bigger, but that the staff does the best they can. She said that some of the hospital's "greatest innovations" are the bedside ultrasound and an intraosseous drill.
"The ultrasound allows us to look for blood, look at the bladder and can help us find blood vessels in overweight patients. The IO drill we use to drill into the bone, anything we do with an IV we can do through the IO drill," she said.
Students also got a peek inside one of the nurseries where premature babies with varying health needs are taken care of. There are babies there who can fit in the palm of a hand and who are born at 27 weeks' gestation instead of the normal 40-week gestation.
With 52 beds in the neonatal unit, bedside nurse Joyce Baiardi said that at its highest capacity, the unit was more than full with 60 babies.
"What can you do? When people deliver and it's not a healthy baby they come up here. All you can do is make room," Baiardi said.
Students were intrigued when they saw a premature baby boy being held by his parents. Born 11 weeks early, the month-old baby was hooked up to feeding tubes. Baiardi said that sometimes the intestines of premature babies aren't ready to digest the enzymes found in breast milk, so they're only given -through a feeding tube- half a teaspoon at a time.
Dr. Mark Mercurio, a neonatal and perinatal specialist at Yale-New Haven, took time during the tour to speak with students like John Earl about their future medical careers.
Earl, from Ledyard, said that he wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, but after hearing Mercurio tell him that there's another 13 or 15 years of schooling after high school, he was close to changing his mind.
"It looks good on paper but it's not for me," Earl said. "I don't want to sound like a quitter but 13 years is a long time. I still want to help people."