Revised Red Watch Band curriculum to include more talk of emergency scenarios

Paulina Firozi

Moving into its third full year as the primary alcohol awareness program on campus, Red Watch Band is altering aspects of the training program to include more discussion about intervention based on situational and behavioral aspects of dangerous alcohol consumption.

Lisa Currie, NU’s director of Health Promotion and Wellness, said the classes, which have trained more than 1,000 students, will move away from discussion of technical details such as blood alcohol concentration that students will not be able to evaluate in an emergency situation.

“We’re piloting a program, and we’re really putting a much greater emphasis in the curriculum on what are the outward signs that someone exhibits and how does that progress,” Currie said. “You can’t look at somebody and know what their BAC is, so it’s not useful to spend time on BAC. We’re tweaking that a little bit.”

Currie said changes are based on a four-part assessment that will help Red Watch Band organizers determine how to improve the program. Students who sign up for training complete a test at the time of registration, a satisfaction survey at the end of the two-hour class and a test six months later to assess how they have retained and used the information. The other portion of the assessment process consists of focus groups to evaluate the training’s effectiveness.

“We want to make sure the program is really responding to the needs of the students,” Currie said.

Another factor Currie said she hopes will soon change is the fact that the majority of students who register for Red Watch Band training are required to do so for leadership positions in student groups and in Greek organizations, such as being a Peer Adviser. There is a lack of students who sign up for the program voluntarily, Currie said.

Josh McKenzie, the assistant director of Orientation and Parent Programs said it is important for PAs to be proactive in their community by being prepared for any situation.

“Peer Advisers deal with a multitude of issues throughout Wildcat Welcome and the entire year, as it relates to new students,” Mckenzie said in an email. “We must anticipate all possible scenarios and interactions a PA has and approach the topics appropriately during PA training. RWB discusses topics that are beneficial for PAs to know by preparing them not only for the PA role but also as a member of the Northwestern community.”

Sungsub Billy Choo, a Communications Residential College CA and SESP junior, originally registered for the program because it would prepare him for being a community assistant. He said he was interested in learning more about the effects of alcohol and has since become a facilitator of Red Watch Band training.

Choo said he has seen a positive response from students. He cites the interactive elements of the training, including learning the “recovery position” to place an intoxicated person in while waiting for an ambulance, and learning to measure the quantity of one shot at different levels of a standard cup.

“I’ve heard people recommend Red Watch Band to others, and it’s great that they’ve found it is a positive program that is suggestible,” he said.

Choo said the main issue in garnering participation is the lack of publicity that promotes Red Watch Band to other students on campus who do not have leadership positions that require them to take the class. He suggested partnering with CAs to teach the program in residential halls for events such as Dillo Day, similar to the way Northwestern Emergency Medicine Organization has alcohol awareness firesides.

Medill sophomore Jim Sannes went through the training last year to be a PA and said while he finds the program important and relevant, it may not be very effective.

“It was three hours of them lecturing, ‘If you’re in doubt, call an ambulance,’ and I feel like that could be sent in an email,” Sannes said.

Sannes said he felt the lessons learned throughout the session often do not apply to people who don’t drink or don’t surround themselves with drinking culture.

Medill freshman Jeremy Woo, who also completed Red Watch Band training to be a PA, said the sessions were often monotonous.

“They just lectured us a lot,” Woo said. “Maybe if there were different ways to engage the students, but I mean, I don’t know how you can convey that information in a creative way.”

Sannes, who did not have to retake the program to be a PA again this year, said he thinks the use of emergency scenarios in the class would be a useful educational tool.

“If you make it more situational, it’s a good way to say, ‘OK, I’ve been in this situation before, even if it was simulated. I’ve been through it once, I know what to do now,'” he said.

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