By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (October 25, 2016) – Earning a little spending money. Taking on the responsibility of caring for their younger siblings. Your pre-teen may think they’re ready for the responsibility. But, it’s likely they wouldn’t know how to react in the case of an emergency or what to do to prevent one.
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville is working to arm adolescents, ages 11 to 14, with the information and skills needed to become responsible caretakers, offering peace of mind to the blooming babysitters, their parents and potential clients.
Tina Virgin, clinical educator and community health improvement advocate with Texas Health Stephenville, said Safe Sitter is a one-day program that spans eight hours. Each class is open to up to six students, and there’s remaining space in the next class, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, October 29, in the hospital’s community room.
The course includes nurturing childcare techniques, behavior management skills, appropriate responses to medical emergencies and more.
“Our goal is to make sure when kids reach the age that parents start using them as babysitters, they (both the parents and aspiring caretakers) can feel confident they have the skills in place to make appropriate, responsible decisions,” Virgin said. “Students aren’t taught full CPR, but they are instructed on what to do in that instance.”
The course includes bookwork and hands-on experience, working with mannequins.
“We also give them certain numbers to call and codes they can send to cell phones when something is wrong, when they are faced with an emergency, but cannot call (their parents or another adult) to explain,” Virgin said.
She also said the program will offer students tips and techniques aimed at preventing emergencies and improving safety for themselves and the younger children in their care.
“They will walk away prepared and more confident,” Virgin said, adding that 11 and 12-year-old children are not always aware of risks, hazards and signs that something is wrong, but the program will help create and increase awareness.
At the end of the workday, student who successfully complete the program will receive certification.
“We just finished two classes and certified 10 students,” Virgin said.
Parents are encouraged to return for the class’ conclusion to see what their children have learned.
Additional information on the Safe Sitter class is available on the Texas Health Stephenville website, where a registration link is also located. Preregistration is required.
Meanwhile, Virgin said the community outreach and education effort is one of several offered by the local hospital. Other programs include a prepared childbirth course for expecting parents, a diabetes education course and a Better Breathers Club to help individuals living with chronic illness improve their overall quality of life.
“We have had some (in the Better Breathers Club) go from taking to six steps to walking around the building several times,” Virgin said, adding the educational courses for diabetics includes information from a registered dietician.
Finally, Virgin said the Community Health Council has its finger on the pulse of community and works to fill its needs. Within the last year, the council created a resource guide – online and in print – that provides information on health and wellness, area health care professionals and resources for individuals in need of nutrition, utility and other forms of assistance. Prior to the recent effort, which received a favorable nod from the United Way, the resource guide was last updated about 10 years ago.