“Even if only one student is listening, it’s a success”: P.A.R.T.Y. returns to The Alfred

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The Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program confronts teens with real-life stories and experiences of their peers, providing what emergency room nurse Andrew Laird describes as an invaluable way to educate youth about the reality of risk-related trauma.

“The program exposes adolescents and young adults to the horrific reality of trauma, which can often result from poor or influenced decision-making,” said Andrew. “The aim of PARTY is to teach young people the hard and shocking facts about the patient’s journey from the moment of injury to rehabilitation at home many months later.”

Manager of The Alfred’s trauma service, Kim Williams, shares a similar perspective on the program.

“It is a raw and emotional journey into how traumatic injuries resulting from risky behavior can forever change young lives and the lives of those who love them,” said Kim. “We hope that after participating in this program, young people will stop and think about what could happen and how devastating the consequences could be for them and everyone involved.”

Since its founding in a hospital in Toronto, Canada in 1986, the PARTY program has expanded to more than 100 countries. The PARTY program was first launched at The Alfred in 2009 and has evolved since then in no small part thanks to the influence of the coordinator’s passion and decades of practical experience within the hospital.

PARTY program coordinator Sue Smith has been a nurse at The Alfred since 1992 and sees her years of experience in the hospital’s emergency and trauma center – the busiest in Australia – as an asset in informing the development of the PARTY program and communicating its importance to the participants.

“I literally feel like to be a good PARTY coordinator you really have to be a clinical nurse,” said Sue. “Obviously that doesn’t happen in many places, but I feel like the credibility I have by still being on the floor in emergency situations, still being involved in patient contact and having real stories to tell the students when they coming in is so valuable.

“I have the feeling that if I talk to the students and say that I am still a nurse in the Emergency Department and Trauma Center, I will already receive extra attention.”

Initially drawn to a career in nursing due to the excitement and appeal of the stories of life in a nurse’s dormitory from her older sister, a fellow nurse, Sue soon found herself at home in the hospital hallways.

“I moved into those nursing dorms and went to school for ten weeks, here at The Alfred,” Sue recalls. “And then we were released into the departments, and I immediately felt that this was clearly the right career choice.

“And I loved every day.”

Even more than her thirty years of practical experience, it is this love for her work and the empathy that Smith radiates. Both make the Alfred’s PARTY program stand out.

Smith’s eyes welled with tears, just to remember her many years in The Alfred’s trauma center.

“I’m a very emotional person,” Sue admits. “But I feel like that definitely works in my favor in the emergency room because I still have a lot of feelings, which I don’t think is always normal when you’ve had a job for so long.”

Applying this empathy and sense of emotion to her role as PARTY program coordinator, Sue said she is clear about communicating to program participants that she understands how likely they are to take risks and that this will to some extent altitude is part of the process of taking risks. these participants as they grow.

In this way, Sue distinguishes The Alfred’s implementation of the program from scare tactics, but instead views the program more as a means of helping young people better understand the potential consequences of any risky behavior they might consider.

“You know, we know that some of them go out and do drugs or try drugs, or drink alcohol, and when I tell them this, a lot of times they can’t believe we’re saying that,” Sue explained. “We would of course emphasize that while we are not advocating that they do this, we want to make them aware that if they undertake these activities, they could make choices that could end in disaster.

“And I feel like when we take that approach and that way of talking to them, they feel like they can relax a little bit and then potentially listen a little bit more.”

“Then they’re not just thinking, ‘oh, here we go, it’s another person telling us: don’t do this, don’t do that’.”

This approach to engaging with young people rather than simply talking to them has a clear impact on the way Sue and The Alfred present the PARTY program – as participants are not only invited to listen and learn, but also to take part in hands-on activities, see parts of the hospital for themselves and even speak to current and former patients as a way to better understand the potential consequences of taking unnecessary or reckless risks.

Forced to adapt to an online model during the Covid pandemic, Smith is particularly excited to see the show’s return to hospital corridors, barely able to wipe the smile off her face as she watches it happen.

“We know you’ll probably never reach everyone,” Sue said. “But even if it deters one person from participating in a high-risk activity that ends in disaster, the program is a success.”

“So I think that’s what keeps me going, and what keeps the program going as well.”

PARTY returns on Thursday, November 16, 2023 with a program open to 17 to 25 year olds. For information on how to participate, contact [email protected] or visit

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