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Black and white photo of children working at their desks in a school room from 1902

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Welcome to the SickKids eNewsletter. This publication focuses on a topic and highlights where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going: the THEN, the NOW and the NEXT. Please enjoy our most recent publication, and if you like what you see, subscribe now!

Message from Dr. Ronald Cohn | Then - 1892: Class is in session | Now - Vaping: an important conversation | Next - Using technology to learn in new ways


September often symbolizes a return to routines and a refocus on education. As an academic health sciences centre, SickKids embraces learning in all that we do. Alongside clinical care and research, we strive for excellence in child health through exceptional and specialized education programs delivered by our Learning Institute and departments across the organization. We know there is always an opportunity to learn; whether it be from patients, families, staff, or other members of the SickKids community.  

This month at SickKids, we welcome back our bedside teaching and classroom programs. Nearly 130 years ago, the first school program at SickKids was introduced, allowing patients to continue to learn while they received care at the hospital. Today, these programs are a staple in the lives of many of our long-term patients, supporting their education while catering to their individual learning needs.

At SickKids, we are leaders in knowledge translation, using a variety of strategies to expand the impact of research through the advancement of clinical care, health policy and education.  

We also train hundreds of residents, fellows and students every year, knowing that they will become the next generation of breakthrough clinicians and researchers both at SickKids and beyond our doors. At SickKids, virtual reality is being used as a tool to help neurosurgery nurses learn new clinical skills. We’re also harnessing technological innovations by pursuing artificial intelligence (AI) to help clinicians develop new solutions to improve patient care.  

Education and learning make up the fabric of SickKids and I feel privileged to work alongside and learn from so many brilliant individuals every day. Welcome back to this exciting season at SickKids!

Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO

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The first school program was introduced at SickKids in 1892. An idea from SickKids orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Bartholomew Edwin Mackenzie, the premise was for the Public School Board to supply a teacher and have patients – as they were able – instructed regularly. Pictured here is a classroom within the hospital in 1902, where children were taught spelling, reading and writing, and simple arithmetic by teacher, Miss Elder. A description about the school room reads: “One of the brightest spots in the building is the school room … Many a tedious and wearisome hour is made happy and profitable in the school room”.

Today, the SickKids school program is a partnership with the Toronto District School Board, the Ministry of Education and SickKids. The current program includes 11 teachers and 1 educational assistant who teach children in kindergarten to Grade 12. The teachers serve patients at the bedside and in specialty classrooms such as the Epilepsy, Substance Use and Eating Disorder programs as part of the student's treatment plan. Teachers follow the Ontario curriculum and write report cards for the students.

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Dr. Theo Moraes, Staff Respirologist at SickKids shares his tips for parents on how to have important conversations with children and youth about e-cigarette use – otherwise known as vaping – to help keep all kids happy and healthy.

This fall, as teens return back to school, parents need to be prepared to have an important conversation with their children about e-cigarette use – also commonly referred to as vaping – and the impact it can have on health. A new Canadian study earlier this year revealed a massive 74 per cent increase in youth vaping – between the ages of 16 and 19. However, there is a huge misperception of how dangerous the use of these substances are. Read Dr. Moraes' Perspective on what you need to know to start a conversation with your child or youth about vaping.

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Technological innovations in health care drive advancements in child health at SickKids, and are key components of the world-class care provided at the hospital.   

Perioperative nursing education is one area where technology is vastly improving how SickKids neurosurgery nurses learn new clinical skills. Virtual reality (VR) is emerging as an innovative teaching strategy that provides realistic training simulations, allowing nurses to learn and improve their clinical skills outside the operating room (OR).   

Typically, nursing education in neurosurgery relies on real-time training, resulting in lengthy orientations and staffing challenges. Because approximately 45 per cent of neurosurgery cases at SickKids are emergencies, it is hard to organize learning opportunities for OR nurses, particularly scrub nurses, who assist surgeons during procedures.  

Facilitated by the SickKids Learning Institute, nurses at SickKids use a VR craniotomy simulation to experience “real-world” surgical scenarios. Participants can develop their clinical skills by taking on the role of scrub nurses in craniotomy procedures, while applying critical reasoning and receiving feedback. The VR craniotomy was developed by Linda Nguyen, Interprofessional Education Specialist, and Dr. Clyde Matava, Staff Anesthesiologist and Director of Informatics Innovation and Technology in the Department of Anesthesia, and clinical experts. It provides a safe and consistent learning opportunity for all OR nurses, regardless of their level of experience.   

SickKids is also harnessing technological innovations by pursuing artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new solutions to improve patient care. AI in Medicine for Kids (AIM) is comprised of an interdisciplinary team that aims to provide an integrated platform for clinicians and researchers to use AI and data science methods to improve health outcomes and delivery of care to children.

Most recently, Dr. Anna Goldenberg, co-chair of AIM and SickKids’ first chair of Biomedical Informatics and Artificial Intelligence, helped develop a first-ever roadmap for how health-care systems can adopt machine learning into patient care. The roadmap is the first step in helping providers work together and use technology to drive clinical decisions.  

Advances in health-care technology are enabling new learning opportunities for clinicians to ensure their skills evolve as we pave the path for the future of predictive and individualized patient care at SickKids.

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