Hands-on surgery for 600 Doncaster school pupils

It was a tricky surgical manoeuvre.

By David Kessen
Thursday, 11th July 2019, 8:27 am
Updated Thursday, 11th July 2019, 11:26 am
Volunteer 'patient' Ryan Farbrace, and Carol Orr, education lead for medicine and emergency nurse practitioner, at the We Care -  Into the Future health careers event at Doncaster Dome
Volunteer 'patient' Ryan Farbrace, and Carol Orr, education lead for medicine and emergency nurse practitioner, at the We Care - Into the Future health careers event at Doncaster Dome

But the hands of the operator moved confidently as they took charge of the specially designed equipment for precision keyhole surgery at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

A crowd gathered round as the work continued, with the onlookers including one of the most senior doctors at the hospital.

Volunteer 'patient' Ryan Farbrace, and Carol Orr, education lead for medicine and emergency nurse practitioner, at the We Care - Into the Future health careers event at Doncaster Dome

But this was not the operating theatre. It was the main hall at the Doncaster Dome. The hands were not those of a surgeon. They were the hands of a teenage pupil at Hall Cross School, Doncaster.

The task was part of the latest scheme to attract people into signing up to work for the NHS, the first event of its sort since the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Trust struck up a special relationship with Hall Cross, which is now the UK’s first Foundation School in Health. The school’s sixth form provided volunteers helping out at the venue.

The invitation-only event, called We Care – Into the Future was offered to every secondary school within Doncaster, with hundreds of youngsters taking part.

Consultant orthopedic surgeon Scott McInnes watched on as youngsters tried their hands at keyhole surgery – one of his own areas of expertise. They have five minutes to complete the task, and he admitted that some of them performed impressively.

A year eight pupil tried his hand at a surgery simulator at the Doncaster Dome at an NHS careers awarenress event

He said: “We brought the keyhole surgery simulator in, and the youngsters have been asking how accurate it was. Well, the simulator we’ve got is used for surgical simulation at the hospital. The quickest time that I’ve seen to perform the task among them is was 48 seconds, and that is not bad – it shows great promise.”

Mr McInnes was at the Dome dressed in his full scrubs. He had brought with him an operating theatre which he was using for a live surgery demonstration, with colleagues. 

It was not on a real patient – it was on a specially created dummy.

It formed part of a show that was put on by health workers to show the variety of work in the hospital, tracking the journey of a man who had been injured in a fictional motorcycle action, tracking his journey from his arrival at the hospital by ambulance to his appointments with occupational therapists to help him get on with his life after leaving its care.

Volunteers from Hallcross Academy and health professionals from Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals who helped to organise an NHS careers event at the Doncaster Dome

“I think it’s really useful,” he said. “I didn’t decide I wanted to be doctor until near the end of my time at school. These youngsters get to see what the NHS jobs involve”

Carol Orr, an emergency nurse practitioner who also does work for the NHS in education, also took part in the performance. She had created props for the show, showing what appeared to be the gruesome sight of a broken bone protruding out of the patient’s leg.

Her volunteer patient was her grown-up son, Ryan Fairbrace. For him, the experience was a useful insight to. He wants to work as a paramedic.

Youngsters from Hall Cross felt the event brought healthcare to life in a way that a classroom never could.

Pictured left to right are Nikola Dorsz, aged 13, nurse and education lead Gail Eden, James Flanagan, 13, orthopedic consultant Scott McInnes, and Ava Moore, 13, at the We Care - Into the Future health careers event at Doncaster Dome

Nikola Dorsz, aged 13, said: “I’ve found some of the jobs interesting, and there some I didn’t know existed. There was one involving using lifts, an occupational therapist. But to be honest I don’t know what I want to do for a job yet.

Ava Moore, also aged 13, thought the hands-on activities were a good idea. She said: “Most of the time children are not interest in looking at careers. But this has been a lot of fun activities where people are eager to take part. It’s been eye-opening. I’d never heard of occupational therapists either, and I now know more about ophthalmology

James Flanagan, also 13, admitted he had not thought about a job in the NHS. He said: “It has been eye-opening to see how many branches there are in health. Seeing the human body in more detail has been really interesting.  It’s better than sitting in a classroom. My favourite bit has been using the resuscitation dummies, the hands on practical stuff.”

More than 350 careers were on show for pupils who are at the age when they begin to think about their GCSE choices.

Pippa Dodgshon, principal at Hall Cross Academy, said: “We’ve brought along the whole of year eight – that’s 280 pupils from our school alone. We think this will help young people to develop their ambitions.

“Generally, teacher and carers don’t have the depth of knowledge of the number of work streams across a hospital. We want to develop a way for children to see this when they are young enough and understand the opportunities that are there.

“There are professions that range from health practitioners to estates management and IT, as well as electricians.

“We’ve been able to bring people in from nine schools.  I think most of our young people are wide-eyed about the number of opportunities that there are.”

Many of those taking part as volunteers at the event were keen on careers in health.

Lydia Abbott, a 17-year-old Hall Cross sixth former, said she was planning to get a job as a pediatric nurse, looking after children. She said: “I knew that I wanted to be a nurse when I was the same age as the year eights who are here today, but I didn’t know what area. 

Fellow sixth former Senem Alagoz, also 17, helped out on a stand looking at dentistry – her own planned career. “It’s useful to find more out, as I’m going to be applying for courses in a few month,” she said

Dr Sam Debbage, deputy director of education at the hospitals trust and registered nurse, said: “Health and social care offers a wide-range of career prospects, from patient-facing roles to those accountants, IT experts and trades-people, who we do not associate as closely with organisations such as the NHS, but are just as essential in ensuring a hospital like ours can function. We were very pleased to be able to showcase this to local young people, particularly as they start to think about what career they might want to go into in the future.”

There are now plans to run the event again next year.