Pinwheels and banner at Meritus Medical Center help raise awareness of child abuse

April 16, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Towson University at USMH nursing students Kayla Willis, left, of Boonsboro, and Melissa Schroyer, of Smithsburg, hold pledge cards signed by the public.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

At Meritus Medical Center, pinwheels and a banner help draw attention to the issue of child abuse.

“It’s important to protect the children in our community,” Gwenn Leatherman, an emergency room nurse at Meritus Medical Center, said Monday. “We need to raise awarness to keep the children safe and for people to know that if something’s wrong, they should report it.”

Meritus Medical Center’s forensic nurse examiner program and the Towson University senior nursing students created a pinwheel garden outside the public entrance to the emergency department to raise awareness about child-abuse prevention. Three-hundred pinwheels were placed in the garden Monday morning, along with a banner that says “A Promise For Prevention.”

The banner was in the hospital all of last week, and people could walk by and sign it.

Leatherman signed the banner and said she has had to deal with cases of child abuse in the past.

“It’s emotionally draining, and mentally we just try to concentrate on the patient,” she said. “We see this type of abuse in the ER, and we want to make people aware and try to prevent it.”

Pamela Holtzinger, of Meritus Medical Center’s forensic nurse program, helped organize the event. She said raising awareness to prevent child abuse is a communitywide effort.

“If we can raise awareness and let people know that they can make a difference by reporting child abuse, that in itself will be a success,” she said. “We would really love to work ourselves out of the child maltreatment business if we can bring enough awareness to be able to prevent child abuse.”

Holtzinger added that child abuse is a major problem locally and nationally.

“The last statistical year, there were about 900 reports of child abuse in Washington County alone,” she said. “To bring awareness to the issue is our first and foremost goal.”

Joe Ross, president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health, stopped by the garden Monday. Meritus Health received a grant from the state of Maryland to help train its staff to identify circumstances of domestic abuse, offer support and offer positive interventions, he said.

“Many times, domestic abuse first surfaces in the emergency room setting,” Ross said. “We hope, over time, we’ll help these families get back on a productive, positive path.”

The grant included $50,000 from the state and approximately $16,000 from CareFirst Inc. of Maryland.

Ross said domestic abuse is a cycle that needs to be broken.

“Domestic abuse builds on itself, and the abused become the abusers,” he said. “Through this training, we’ll be able to read the signs, ask the right questions, and work with law enforcement and social services to help these families move forward.”

Kayla Willis of Boonsboro, a senior in the nursing program at Towson, took part in the project. She was out Monday helping to place the pinwheels and the banner in the garden.

“It was nice just to make the community aware of the issue,” said Willis, 21. “It’s important to be aware of it and know how to catch it early.”

Holtzinger said next year she hopes to increase the size of the garden to one pinwheel for every report of child abuse in Washington County.

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