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Sons and Daughters Get Sneak Peek Inside Operating Rooms of UC San Diego Medical Center


April 23, 2008  |  

“I like the big robot,” said Connor Carr, age 4. “I got two finger casts and I got to see my heart beat on a computer screen. I also got a cookie.”

Dressed in a white surgical suit and cap, Connor Carr was one of fifty children who had the privilege of touring four operating rooms at UC San Diego Medical Center-Hillcrest on April 19. The visit represents the first “Take Your Child to Work Day” event for the hospital’s operating room staff.

Connor Carr

Connor Carr tries his hand at minimally invasive surgery at UCSD Medical Center.

Across the United States, parents are invited to take their sons and daughters to work on April 24. In a hospital environment where patient privacy and safety are paramount, bringing loved ones to work isn’t always possible, especially for an employee of an operating room. The staff at UC San Diego Medical Center devised a heartfelt solution.

“We love our kids and want them to see why we are so proud to work at UCSD Medical Center. The operating room staff volunteered to host a special Saturday, during closed hours, so that our children can see what we do surgically to help patients throughout the year,” said Kathy Thompson, R.N., Operating Room Nurse Manager.

After dressing in over-sized blue scrubs and bonnets and booties, groups of wide-eyed children walked through the double doors of the surgery suite into four interactive learning rooms. The areas were set up so that children, ages 4-16, could experience “hands-on” what it is like to be a surgeon or nurse.

Germ prevention

Mom and daughter discuss importance of germ prevention.

Activities included finger casting, heart rate recording, x-ray comparisons, and high-powered microscope testing. With fuzzy germ-shaped toys, children learned about the importance of hand washing and infection prevention. In another room, children watched a kidney work on a pump and saw a collection of organs including a lung, brain and heart.

Andrina Sanchez

Andrina Sanchez observes her healthy heart at UCSD Medical Center.

All of the children experimented with one of UC San Diego Medical Center’s national specialties: minimally invasive surgery.

“These are special tools that allow us to reach organs by making tiny incisions,” said Janet E. Hofer, R.N. “I am going to show you how these instruments are used to repair or remove unhealthy tissue.”

Standing in front of a surgeon’s training station, Hofer gave the children a five-minute medical school primer. Normally, the station allows surgeons to practice maneuvering sensitive surgery tools while looking at a computer screen. First, Hofer demonstrated the instruments and then put the children in the driver’s seat.

“Now it’s your turn,” said Hofer. “In your left hand, you have a small camera to guide you. In your right hand, you have a grasper. Look at the TV screen to see what you can pull out.”

Children at work, UCSD Med Center

Child watches candy disappear from surgery training machine at UCSD Medical Center

Instead of extracting an organ, children carefully retrieved rainbow-colored shoelaces, bracelets and “Smarties” candy from a brightly lit box. Each successful operation met with a round of applause and congratulations to the surgeon-to-be.

In the same room, one of UC San Diego Medical Center’s daVinci robots was available for viewing. The four-armed robot is used to perform complex and delicate surgical procedures. Outside the room, a high-powered microscope allowed visitors to see their fingers magnified 400 times.


Robotic equipment and microscopes were available for hand-on testing.

“It’s great for the kids to see all the technology and how it works,” said Joseph Lopez, Sterile Processing Department Supervisor. “Describing an operating room in words is one thing, seeing it in person is another. The kids here get to observe something that even a patient doesn’t normally see.”

Children at work, UCSD Med Center

Sisters read heart rates while considering careers as surgeons at UC San Diego.

Billy Snyder of UC San Diego Lifesharing, San Diego’s non-profit organ procurement organization dedicated to the life-saving benefits of organ donation, drew a consistent crowd.  Wearing a colorful suit of Velcro-attached organs, Snyder provided the aspiring medical practitioners a quick anatomy lesson. He then handed the parts over to the kids and requested a transplant.

“I gave Billy a brain,” giggled Andrina Sanchez, age 6. “Billy taught us how donated organs from one person can help lots of other families.”

Billy Snyder

Billy Snyder of UCSD Lifesharing taught children importance of organ donations.

“What I hope every kid learns from me is that sharing organs saves lives,” said Snyder. “If you can’t use an organ, perhaps some one else can. Organ donation creates miracles for other people every day. Just ask any mom or dad who works in an operating room.”

After completing the tour, groups of departing children received a bag of educational materials and were asked about their favorite part of the experience. The three top responses were: the candy pinchers, finger casts, and most popular, “Billy the Organ Guy.” An expanded set of tours are planned for April 2009.

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Media Contact: Jackie Carr, 619-543-6163,

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