Car accidents are the leading cause of death for young Americans. At JPS Health Network, a Level 1 trauma center in Tarrant County, Texas, about 10% of all its traumas are young adults who have been in car accidents – many of which involve alcohol.

To help educate high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving, JPS Health Network has developed Shattered Dreams – a community – and school-based program that promotes responsible decisions about underage drinking, with the goal of preventing injuries and deaths.

Working with hospital staff, fire and police department officials, the medical examiner’s office and local businesses, students spend months planning a scenario for a mock car crash scene at their high school. Students begin by filming a mock party at night, and the next morning a mock 911 call is played over the school’s loudspeaker.

Fire and police officials arrive at the mock crash outside the school, and some students are transported via air and ground emergency medical services to the JPS emergency department, where they experience a full trauma resuscitation and realistic follow-up care. Other students are brought to the local jail or to a funeral home. Students film at each of these locations and produce a video that is shown to all of the high school students and played for members of the community.

“The Shattered Dreams program is really one that says we’re not here to scare you or create fear, we’re here to do everything we possibly can to help you make good choices,” says Robert Earley, CEO of JPS Health Network.

At JPS, nurses, residents, radiology technicians, physicians and surgeons all volunteer to come into the hospital on their day off to participate in the Shattered Dreams program.

“They’re so passionate about their belief that we can make a difference by giving the kids an opportunity to know the impact of their choices,” says Mary Ann Contreras, a nurse and injury prevention/trauma outreach coordinator at JPS.

Parents or guardians watch from the trauma bay as students experience what would happen if they arrived at the hospital as a trauma patient. Some students go to the operating room or the intensive care unit. Some students die on the operating table and are sent to the hospital’s morgue where their parents have to identify them.

After the trauma simulation, JPS chaplains lead a critical incident stress debriefing in which all participants are encouraged to share their experience with the program.

“That to me is the most impactful part,” says Contreras, emphasizing the emotional and very honest conversations that happen between parents and their children, as well as hospital staff.

Making the trauma experience very real for the students and their parents is important to the program’s success, says Raj Gandhi, M.D., the trauma medical director at JPS. “Everyone involved believes in the program and knows that it reduces death,” he says.

Since 2012, JPS has conducted the program for three high schools, reaching about 4,500 students. A health network survey shows 83% of students believed their friends would be less likely to drink and drive after participating in the Shattered Dreams program. In addition, the survey shows an 8% decrease in overall alcohol consumption.

“We really want to get the message across that the decisions that passengers make while they ride in a car has a tremendous impact on injury prevention,” says Contreras. “We also want the students to understand their personal responsibility and opportunity to make good choices while they are driving.”

To watch a video about the Shattered Dreams program produced by JPS Health Network, tune in here.

Firefighters Extraction Drill

Firefighters work to extricate high schools students from a mock crash scene set up as part of JPS Health Network’s Shattered Dreams program. 

Hospital Emergency Drill