Prisma Health Children’s Hospital hosts many of the campus’s injury prevention programming for adults and children. (Photos by Grace Tippett)

The emergency room at Prisma Health Richland is filled with victims of falls, car crashes and gunshot wounds – injuries that can be avoided.

The hospital’s injury prevention department is working to educate people so they can avoid serious injuries.

While these programs are not new, the injury prevention department has ramped them up because, post-COVID, it wants more community members to participate. 

Falls, motor vehicle crashes and gunshot wounds are Columbia’s top three injuries, said Lara Peck, Prisma’s injury prevention coordinator. The hospital’s ER sees an average of 3,400 serious injuries each year, she said.

Peck joked that the department’s job is to “keep people out of the ER.”

She visits older adults and caregivers to coach them on avoiding serious falls.

And she delivers drug and alcohol intervention workshops for high school and college age students.

While Peck focuses on injury prevention in adults, Kenishia Golden-Smith, Prisma Health’s pediatric injury prevention coordinator, focuses on injury prevention for children.

“I work with different programs that are geared towards keeping kids safe,” Golden-Smith said. “I go wherever the parents are or caregivers are in order to reach the population that I’m working with.”

Car seat safety inspections and safe sleep classes are included in the programming. Open houses at schools and daycares and impatient education help deliver the messages.

Golden-Smith also works to secure funding for resources. 

The injury prevention department covers a 22-county area across the Midlands. 

Many patients from outside Richland County come to the Prisma Health Richland Hospital Trauma Center for care because it is the only Level 1 trauma center in the area. The hospital is one of five Level 1 trauma centers in the state. 

During child safety seat inspections, Golden-Smith looks to see if the seat is strapped in properly and that it’s the correct size for the child based on height and weight. She also checks to make sure it’s stabilized.

“People should be making sure that their car seat is moving no more than an inch,” Golden-Smith said.

Participants who need to purchase a new car seat are given a voucher for a $25 discount off a car seat from the hospital’s shop. Golden-Smith also gives participants booklets containing tips about car seat safety. 

As part of the fall prevention series, patients learn how to improve their safety both at home and when they’re out in the community. Instructors talk about  nutrition, physical activity, vision, medications and other contributors to falls, Peck said.

She said they cover “what to do in case of a fall, how do they get up safely from a fall, when do they need to go get medical attention as well as how can they talk to their doctor about their concerns for falls.”

The hospital partners with community centers, faith-based organizations, schools and neighborhood associations to promote the programs. 

One organization Peck has partnered with before is the Katie & Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center. The organization’s members are mostly 65 years and older. 

“We have done short presentations for them as well as eight week fall prevention classes out there,” Peck said. “They just have such a great, engaged membership there, and, you know, it’s always a pleasure to go out there and educate the community center members.

Robin Rudman is the community center’s director of sports and fitness. She said she has received good feedback from members.

“Its nice that Prisma offers this in the community for free,” Rudman said. “People are really happy to have it, because sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. You forget that you can do those things for yourself as you age.”

Project Ready, a violence and injury prevention program for teens, is another one of Prisma’s community initiatives. The team has taken the project into local schools to show teens the consequences of risky decision making, Peck said. 

Prisma’s presentations are available upon request. 

“Will I ever know that I absolutely prevented an injury?” Peck said. “Maybe not, but, hopefully, people are taking the information and the tips that we give them and are utilizing them so that we won’t see them in the ER.”

Injury Prevention Coordinator Lara Peck hosts a “ThinkFirst to Prevent Falls” presentation at Prisma Health Richland.

The injury prevention department is housed on Prisma Health Richland’s campus.