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Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM



Hospital targets car-seat "misuse"

Special to The Seattle Times

There was a rush on noodles the other Saturday — the foam noodles kids use in swimming pools.

Car-seat technicians cut and stuffed the noodles into the cracks of vehicle seats to ensure that each infant car seat sat at a 45-degree angle. The angle prevents a baby's head from falling forward, cutting off his or her air supply.

That's one of the 30 or so points that technicians check as part of a car-seat-installation training program at Providence Everett Medical Center. The program began March 1 after a two-month trial period.

Providence is one of the first hospitals in the nation to offer the free training to obstetric patients seven days a week.

Of 109 car seats checked between Feb. 13 and March 4, technicians found 236 errors on 76 seats.

"Really, it's the issue of misuse," said Shannon Wilner, a registered nurse and coordinator of child safety and injury prevention at Providence.

The program is the brainchild of Wilner and Christie Tipton, the manager of Providence's Children's Center. Tipton successfully applied for a $120,000 grant through the Providence Health System after she saw child-fatality figures released in 2005, breaking down the numbers by type of death and comparing Snohomish County with other Washington counties.

On the Web

Safe Kids Worldwide:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration :

"We were at the bottom of the heap," Tipton said of the child-fatality figures. "That's what moved me."

Snohomish County's rate of children's motor-vehicle deaths was 4 per 100,000 kids. The statewide rate was 2.4 per 100,000.

"When I looked at the statistics for Snohomish County, it was appalling that we were not doing what we needed to do in our county for injuries," Tipton said. "This is all stuff that is preventable."

A 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study said 72.6 percent of the 3,442 child car seats observed had displayed one or more critical misuses.

Khong Khounphixay of Lake Stevens installed a car seat for his first child and then took Providence's car-seat training. He found something that hadn't been in the seat manufacturer's instructions.

The baby's back should be as flat and secure as possible, he learned, and a blanket and pillow was interfering with that.

"Everything's all new to me," Khounphixay said.

Some parents arrive with the car seat still in the manufacturer's box. Wilner said a common statement is, "I thought all I had to do is put the child in the seat and buckle him in."

Wilner, also a coordinator of Safe Kids of Snohomish County, has worked with car seats with various agencies since 1999. Several agencies offer training but only once or twice a week.

"The reality is our world functions on a seven-day time frame," said Lorrie Walker, a training manager for the Buckle Up program of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injuries. "We're a 24/7 society."

Walker said Providence's program could be a model for other programs.

In order to train the parents, car-seat technicians took a 32-hour course that includes a written test and five hands-on tests. Of Providence's six technicians, one also works in the emergency room, one is a childbirth educator, and others work primarily as technicians.

Corinne Trimm had just completed her training as a technician. She also works as a digital radiology technician at the hospital. When she first heard about the training, she couldn't imagine why it would take 32 hours to learn how to install a car seat. But after her first day, in which she helped train seven fathers in 1 hours, she wished she'd had another day of hands-on training.

"There's so much to look at," she said.

Wilner plans to test the program's effectiveness with three-month follow-up surveys. She wants to expand the program to include neonatal-intensive-care and pediatric patients.

"My prayer is we will never see these children in our emergency room," she said.

Diane Rodgers:

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company




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