KINGSPORT – No matter how long a trauma nurse has been on the job, it’s still heartbreaking every time a child or teenager comes into the emergency department with a traumatic injury that could have been prevented.
In an effort to thwart those preventable injuries, nurses at Holston Valley Medical Center have instituted Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, a program that teaches children, teens and their parents about safety issues.
“For teenagers, the program focuses on seatbelt safety and the dangers of speeding and drinking and driving,” said Sharon Littleton, Holston Valley’s trauma coordinator. “For the little ones, it focuses on the importance of wearing helmets when biking and skating.”
The program is mandatory for teens seeking a driver’s license in Scott County, Va., and Littleton hopes to spread the program into more jurisdictions.
“I would really like to get this program into the school systems,” she said. “I believe that all teenagers could benefit from seeing this presentation.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens are involved in more motor vehicle crashes than any other age group. They are more likely than older drivers to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, ride with an intoxicated driver and drive when impaired.
“So many teens think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ ” Littleton said. “Trust me - it can happen to you, and it can happen really quickly. That’s the message we want to portray with the Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program.
“Some of the slides aren’t pleasant to look at, but with teenagers you really have to show them to make an impact. We aren’t doing this for shock value. We are doing it to give teens an honest look at the dangers that come along when you don’t take the responsibility of driving seriously. We want to help make the roads safer for everyone.”
While the presentation for young children isn’t graphic, the nurses still make an impact when they talk about helmet safety.
“We don’t show the little ones graphic slides, but we do get their attention,” Littleton said. “We take a melon with a face, and we drop it on the ground so that the kids can see how much damage is done. That really illustrates the importance of wearing a helmet in a way that kids can understand.”
Littleton emphasized that the presentations are designed to help children and teens make safe choices that can help prevent traumatic injuries.
“Choices that seem so small can make such a difference,” Littleton said.
The Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program is available to community groups free of charge. Groups interested in scheduling a presentation can call Littleton at 423-224-5826.