P.A.R.T.Y. in the media

Adelaide hospital staff teach teens how to party smart over the Christmas holiday break

891 ABC Adelaide

By Brett Williamson

Staff at the Royal Adelaide Hospital are working overtime to ensure school-leaver celebrations do not finish in the emergency department (ED) this year.

As a clinical nurse in the hospital's ED for the past nine years, Lani Hargrave has seen more than her fair share of alcohol and drug-fuelled injuries.

This inspired her to help develop the Prevention of Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program, introduced to the hospital in late 2014.

The program sees classes of up to 35 teenagers touring the hospital's ED areas to learn first-hand from staff what happens when celebrations get out of control.

"The kids get a really good snapshot of what it is like to come into the emergency department as a trauma patient," Ms Hargrave said.

"We talk to them about risk, choice and consequence."

The students are exposed to a variety of trauma patient situations, from jetty jumping injuries to road accidents and drug, alcohol and head injuries.

"The nursing staff talk to the students about what it is like to treat patients in those areas and having to tell the parents 'your child is in hospital'," Ms Hargrave said.

"Often we tell them that is one of the worst parts of our job."

'You see the penny drop'

Eighty per cent of young males between the ages of 15 and 19 who present to the hospital's ED record a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of 0.05.

Ms Hargrave said they were at an age where they believed they were almost bulletproof.

recent spate of drug-related deaths and hospitalisations at music festivals around Australia has heightened public awareness of the dangers of taking party drugs.

"Drugs can be so much worse for you on hot days," Ms Hargrave said.

She said even students who entered the PARTY program believing they were untouchable eventually changed their attitude.

"You see the looks on the kids' faces — and it might be the oddest piece of information that makes it click, but when it does, you see the penny drop," she said.

"This program gets through where other programs may not because of the fact that we are in that hospital environment.

"It really helps to assist them in trying to understand how drugs, alcohol and risk can affect their lives."

You only live once

Ms Hargrave said the PARTY program's goal was to get teens to consider their options before celebrations got underway, as well as always having a plan B.

"If you find yourself out at a party and find you can't get home and the only option is to get into a car with a person who has been drinking, make a phone call to your parents," Ms Hargrave said.

"Your parents would rather get a call from you at 2:00am, 3:00am or 4:00am in the morning rather than from me in the emergency department because you have been taken in there.

"Whatever happens over the summer holidays, go out, have fun, but think twice about the decisions you are going to make because you want to live — and you can only live once."

The PARTY program received the 2015 South Australian Premier's Our Community Award for outstanding healthcare projects.