September 25, 2020


By DEVON SMITH

With lifelike wounds and car fires, live birthing and a cold water rescue, the eighth annual NaHSSA Conference kept everyone on the edge of their gurneys.

NaHSSA, that is, the National Health Sciences Students’ Association, brought the conference to Conestoga in collaboration with the Waterloo Interprofessional Healthcare Student Collaborative (WIHSC).

The conference was held over the weekend of March 9 and had approximately 130 health sciences students from across the province learning about technology and innovation in healthcare. They did so through speakers, clinics and live simulations.

Conestoga had the honour of being the first college ever to host the conference, which NaHSSA president Andrea Guidolin said is quite an achievement.

“This is the first time it’s hosted by a college as opposed to a university,” she said. “It’s amazing that they’re so well established. That they have great attendance and great student representation, but also that they’re able to host it on campus and have such great events for our students.”

And great events there were. A presentation by professor and acclaimed speaker Dr. Brian Little was followed by live simulations of a car fire, a cold water rescue in the pond, smoke inhalation and a birth. There were clinics, seminars and presentations throughout the weekend teaching students about everything from post-traumatic stress to how to create lifelike wounds with makeup.

Level 3 B.ScN student Candace McLay was one of the nurses who delivered the baby in the live birth simulation.

“It feels real when you’re in it,” she said. “My heart was beating and I was getting flushed, so my adrenaline was pumping even though I knew what was happening. It felt real.”

It’s no wonder that it felt real when the acting “mother” of the child, level 3 B.ScN student Madelaine Deitner, took her role so seriously.

“I actually got really into it and was hyperventilating and I think I could have almost passed out, but we stopped it before that,” she laughed. “In the end, mom and baby were fine and it was a good experience.”

The spectators of this particular simulation watched the event on a TV screen in another room, bringing to light the conference’s technology theme. Not only were there cameras set up in the maternity ward, but the presence of a high-tech remote control newborn named Todd (short for toddler) drove the point home.

In addition to technology and innovation, the conference put an emphasis on collaboration between the different branches of health services, such as the one between paramedics and firefighters.

This relationship was clearly illustrated by the car fire and cold water rescue exercises which had everyone working together to save victims.

WIHSC community liaison, conference co-chair and Conestoga graduate Aaron Dolson knows the importance of these kinds of exercises.

“They give you an opportunity to get an understanding of the differences in the languages,” he said. “How some of the things that you do at the scene can impact, not only the care that the paramedics give, but the care further on down the line.”

Dolson was pleased with the turnout and said that he got a lot of positive feedback from the students.

“I think the students will take a sense of pride in their college away from it,” he said. “I think being the first college to host this event in the eight years that it’s been happening speaks highly of our school.”