March 11, 2011
Volume 55, Issue 10

Gov. Walker Signs Modified Budget Adjustment Bill
Additional FY2011 MA funding removed; DHS program changes to follow administrative rules process

Governor Scott Walker signed a modified Budget Adjustment Bill (BAB) today (March 11), just one day after it cleared a sharply-divided Legislature.

In the matter of a few hours late March 9, a Budget Conference Committee was formed and fiscal items were removed from the BAB. The modified bill was quickly passed by the Conference Committee, setting the stage for a vote in the Senate, where action in that house had been blocked by Democrats who remained out of state, preventing the necessary quorum for a vote on measures that spend state dollars.

The bill was approved that night by the Senate where Republicans have enough members to vote on non-fiscal items. It was immediately sent to the Assembly, where the bill was taken up and passed on March 10.

Governor Walker proposed the BAB to in part address a $153 million deficit in the Medicaid program for this fiscal year, ending June 30. A shortfall of $1.8 billion in the program is a significant part of the $3.6 billion deficit the state faces in the next biennium.

As previously reported, other more controversial items that were included in the BAB have created a tumultuous environment in Madison. Proposals to limit public employee collective bargaining and change public employee union requirements have made Wisconsin’s capitol city "ground zero" in the national debate over public employee unions. Those provisions are retained in the modified BAB, but removed from the bill was funding included to cover the Medicaid shortfall for this biennium. A fiscal bill is still needed to address this shortfall and avoid Medicaid and other programs running out of money in May (see 2-25-11 Valued Voice at

Among other fiscal items removed was a provision authorizing the restructuring of principal payments in fiscal year 2010-11 on the state’s general obligation bonds, allowing the principal payments to be made in future years, and reducing the state’s debt service costs by $165 million for this fiscal year.

Retained, but modified, in the bill is the provision by which the Department of Health Services (DHS) will implement Medicaid program change proposals it develops following a directed study of potential cost-saving measures.

In Governor Walker’s original proposal, changes would have been implemented by the emergency rule-making process after passive review by the Joint Committee on Finance. That Committee added an amendment, fully supported by WHA, that sunsets any adopted study provisions after four years. The modified BAB passed by the Legislature instead requires any program changes proposed by DHS go through the full administrative rules process which provides the opportunity for further legislative review and public hearing. The four-year sunset is also retained.

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A CEO Perspective: The Value of WHA’s Advocacy Day
An interview with Joan Coffman, President & CEO,
St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chippewa Falls)

Every year some 650 individuals from hospitals across the state converge on Madison for the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual Advocacy Day. At Advocacy Day individuals learn about important issues and then meet with their legislators in the State Capitol. Some hospitals, like St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls, bring large contingents to Madison for this annual event, and WHA wanted to learn more about their commitment to doing so. In the following Q&A piece, you’ll hear directly from Joan Coffman, St. Joseph’s Hospital President/CEO & V.P. for Physician Relations for HSHS Division Western Wisconsin, on the value of the annual Advocacy Day event.

Q: Why do you think it’s important as a CEO to attend this event?

Coffman: Advocacy is one of the many critical responsibilities that must actively be assumed by a hospital’s CEO. Through his or her efforts, the hospital and community interests need to be actively advanced and shared. The CEO needs to be intimately involved in public policy formation and dialogue that affects the local and state health care environment. If we want our interests represented, then we need to be actively involved. Like Sister Lenore said so often: "When they throw you into a situation or expect you to do something you really don’t understand ... learn ... that’s what we Sisters had to do."

Q. How many years do you think you’ve attended Advocacy Day?

Coffman: Every year that there has been an Advocacy Day, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls has rolled out the "Blue Dog Express" and has actively participated in the WHA’s event. Numerous hospital colleagues, community representatives, Partners volunteers and others associated with the hospital have intentionally become involved and are invited to participate in this day-long learning and sharing session. Every effort put into this day by the Wisconsin Hospital Association over the years has been deeply appreciated by every attendee. Hosting 600-700 participants, programming, and all of the associated requirements is no small feat. WHA and staff are to be commended for their efforts.

Q: What is your best memory of Advocacy Day?

Coffman: Getting on the Blue Dog Express and getting those tires rolling to Madison. Engaging people and having them be part of something really big. Helping them to be informed and sharing their viewpoints, participating in the day, visiting with our political leaders and then having people ask to be included throughout the year. One wonderful memory was the year St. Joseph’s Hospital received the WHA Advocate of the Year award. Another memory was when one of the gubernatorial candidates asked one of our contingency what she thought on an issue. She was walking on air. One year we had a 12-year-old boy attend who told his story to our representatives—that he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the nurses in OB at St. Joseph’s. Every single person who attends creates a memory. Personally I will never forget how the "seed" was planted, how it "multiplied" and today we have a beautiful garden of engaged individuals.

Q: Why do you encourage your hospital employees, trustees and volunteers to attend?

Coffman: If a hospital is truly a representative of its community in the services it provides and actions it takes to address community need, then the community with its many opinions and viewpoints needs a place to express them and become involved. Involvement produces better policy and a more dynamic democracy! The more people know about government and express their opinions, the better input there is for our elected officials as they conduct the people’s business. Even where we are not totally unanimous on a position, we learn from each other. We learn as a hospital, a community, a state and a nation. Furthermore, with our involvement we ensure that the needs of the marginalized and poor are not overlooked nor forgotten.

Q. Why do you think so many from your hospital continue coming year after year?

Coffman: Because of our intentional involvement of hospital colleagues, Partners, Advisory Council members and members of our Board of Directors. We openly and actively seek their participation in Advocacy Days and upon our return discuss the health care issues that face our community and hospital. People are learning how to speak up and recognize that even on the most technical of issues, elected officials are desirous of input from their constituents. In fact, a better informed public helps create a more responsive institution that becomes more treasured by the community.

Q: If you could say one thing to other CEOs about Advocacy Day, what would it be?

Coffman: It is important for CEOs to be present and engaged in the political process. If you don’t think so, then you deserve what you get and the probability is... it will be mediocre at best because the result will be void of your knowledge, input and experience.

All of us want results that are considerably better than what is produced by the law of averages...effective advocacy has nothing to do with luck.

Make sure you are assembling your hospital contingent today. A complete program and online registration are available at For Advocacy Day questions, contact Jenny Boese at 608-268-1816 or For registration questions, contact Lisa Littel at or 608-274-1820.

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New Legislator Profile: Dr. Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie)

A series of interviews with newly-elected legislators, by Mary Kay Grasmick, editor

Representative Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie) is an emergency room physician practicing at Osceola Medical Center. So what drew him to service in the State Legislature?

"I wanted to serve in the Legislature because, like a lot of people, I have seen the direction that the state and federal government is heading, and it is not where we want to go," Rep. Severson said. "I don’t agree with the rising debt that is occurring at both the state and federal level and the increases in government spending."

Severson said he has the type of personality that if he sees things going in the wrong direction, he doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines; he wants to help develop a solution. The main and what he believes is the most important issue facing the state of Wisconsin—an issue he campaigned vigorously on—is the need to decrease government spending. That’s proving to be a noisy process in Madison.

"That is what we are working on right now in Madison, decreasing the size of government; it is our biggest challenge," according to Severson. "We need to create jobs, balance the budget, and decrease the size of government. I am optimistic that we will be able to accomplish that during this legislative session."

While Medicaid remains Wisconsin’s primary health care safety net for low-income, uninsured patients, growth in the program due to higher demand for services and recent increases in enrollment have become unsustainable. Severson said the single biggest issue that requires attention in the Medicaid program is eligibility. He acknowledges that it is "no small challenge" and there are multiple ways to tackle it. It’s an issue that has been created over time because eligibility has not been routinely reviewed.

"We need to make sure that the people that are on the program are truly the ones that should be receiving the services," Severson said. "Medicaid is an issue we must address in the current state budget."

As a physician practicing in a rural area, Severson is acutely aware of the impact that could have on rural access issues.

"I really like practicing emergency medicine in a rural area. How to get people to want to come to a rural area to practice is actually part of a much larger problem. When physicians complete their residency, they are thousands of dollars in debt," Severson said. "Loan forgiveness would be helpful, but that creates a bigger fiscal problem for the state."

The Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicaid (WARM) is without a doubt part of the solution, according to Severson, and it’s a good start to addressing the problem.

"I’ve seen it in medical school, through my residency and in my practice, if a physician lives and practices in a rural area for any length of time, they are more inclined to stay," he added.

The medical malpractice environment in a state is another important factor in any physician’s decision to establish a practice. That is why Severson is a co-author of the WHA-supported "Apology Bill," which will be introduced in the Legislature soon. The bill would protect statements of apology, condolence, compassion, sympathy, as well as other expressions of empathy by a health care provider to his or her patient.

"It allows the physician to express empathy to the patient without that empathy translating into an admission of guilt," according Severson.

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Two Wisconsin Health Care Systems Share Innovations in Care Delivery at National Conference

Wisconsin is known for delivering high quality, affordable health care. Two health systems – Bellin Health and ThedaCare—were recently given an opportunity to present innovations that that improved individuals’ experience of health care, improved the health of the population, and lowered health care costs—the Triple Aim.

Their work is featured in the March issue of Health Affairs along with 13 other national organizations, ranging from health care systems to health plans and other health initiatives. All 15 organizations presented their initiatives at Health Affairs’ Innovations across the Nation in Health Care Delivery conference December 16, 2010 and they demonstrated that there are clear commonalities and common-sense strategies underpinning their success. At the same time, it is clear that change is hard and challenges remain. The profiles in the new issue of Health Affairs describe what these innovators have achieved despite myriad constraints, such as fragmented delivery systems and flawed payment structures, and suggest what could be accomplished if these constraints were eliminated.

Abstracts of the profiles are printed below with permission from Health Affairs. Links to the full articles follow the abstract.

ThedaCare: Redesigning Acute Care Processes In Wisconsin

Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center, both part of ThedaCare, a 5-hospital health care system with 40 sites and 5,500 employees serving approximately half a million people in northeastern Wisconsin.

KEY INNOVATION: Collaborative Care, a model of general acute care. Lean methodology was used to redesign and reconfigure clinicians’ roles, all acute care processes, and the physical setting to make them more efficient, effective, and patient-friendly.

COST SAVINGS: In the two acute care units where Collaborative Care has been implemented, cost per case has decreased 15–28 percent, and average length-of-stay has dropped 10–15 percent (with an 8.89 percent thirty-day readmission rate).

QUALITY IMPROVEMENT RESULTS: The two acute care units in which Collaborative Care has been fully implemented have achieved perfect "medication reconciliation," which is a formal process for creating the most complete and accurate list possible of a patient’s current medications and comparing the list to those in the patient record or medication orders. Ninety-five percent of patients in Collaborative Care units rated their satisfaction level as "excellent" in 2010, compared with 68 percent in 2006, before the rollout of Collaborative Care.

CHALLENGES: Under Medicare, hospitals receive less than the full diagnosis-related group payment per case when patients are discharged to certain postacute settings, rather than to their homes. Because patients receiving Collaborative Care were moved more quickly to rehabilitation units or nursing homes, ThedaCare was effectively penalized, even though the thirty-day readmission rate is less than half the national average. ThedaCare estimates that in 2010 it lost $1,900–$2,200 in reimbursement, on average, per Collaborative Care case. Hospitals implementing similar initiatives that shorten hospital stays are likely to lose out on revenue under these current Medicare rules.

Click here to view the full Health Affairs article:

Copyrighted and published by Project HOPE/Health Affairs as Redesigning Acute Care Processes in Wisconsin, by Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay, Health Affairs, 30, no. 3 (2011):422-425.

Bellin Health: Charting A Life-and-Health Cycle And Expanded Primary Care Options For Patients In Wisconsin

SYSTEM: Bellin Health, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, serves a market of 600,000 patients. The foundation of the system is a network of 117 primary care physicians—along with 41 employer-based clinics, 40 retail clinics in stores, a 220-bed community hospital, a critical-access hospital, a psychiatric hospital, and a hospice.

KEY INNOVATION: Bellin takes a "life-and-health cycle" approach, stressing prevention and minimizing the likelihood that those who use the system will ever need costly acute, inpatient care. It seeks to engage basically healthy people in new ways and to structure services so that patients can easily access appropriate care at the lowest cost. An example is FastCare Clinics inside retail stores, which are affiliated with medical practices and connected through a system of electronic health records.

COST SAVINGS: The system’s costs have been relatively flat in recent years, as most health systems have seen their costs steadily rise. Bellin estimates that the FastCare Clinics have delivered care outside regular business hours to 124,781 patients. If those people had sought care at emergency departments, they would have cost the system an additional $52.9 million, based on average emergency department costs.

QUALITY IMPROVEMENT RESULTS: No relevant data are available.

CHALLENGES: The system is searching for new ways to engage patients and alert them to the availability of services that fit with their lifestyle. Another hurdle is connecting retail clinics to primary care practices through electronic health records, so that seamless care can be provided in all locations.

Click here to view the full Health Affairs article:

Copyrighted and published by Project HOPE/Health Affairs as Charting a Life-and-Health Cycle and Expanded Primary Care Options For Patients In Wisconsin, by J. Lester Feder, Health Affairs, 30 no. 3 (2011):387-389.

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Connecting With Our Communities:  Fort HealthCare, Fort Atkinson

This interview with Mike Wallace, President/CEO, Fort HealthCare, is the second in a series of articles that WHA is featuring in The Valued Voice that will demonstrate the important benefits that Wisconsin hospitals bring to their communities in the areas of economic development, community health and wellness and in ensuring access to high quality, affordable health care.

Fort HealthCare President & CEO Michael Wallace isn’t waiting for Madison or Washington DC to fix health care. The answers are closer to home. In fact, they are within Fort HealthCare’s primary service area—Jefferson County and parts of Dane and Walworth. "The system is broken," Wallace said of health care in America, noting that while quality of care here is high, the focus is on the very end of the process, when people already are suffering from chronic or severe health problems. "There is so much overspending on the back end when chronic conditions have grown out of control. The answer is to instead promote wellness, prevention and early detection on the front end and better manage chronic disease when it does occur."

At present, most of Fort HealthCare’s efforts are geared toward treating patients in the emergency department, intensive care unit, and on the general medical floor or providing surgical interventions at Fort Memorial Hospital. And, the physicians of Fort HealthCare still treat many more ill patients than healthy patients who come for regular checkups and report feeling "great." Today’s medical care is said to account for only ten percent of overall health status. The environment (5 percent), social factors (15 percent) and lifestyle and behavior (40 percent) all have much more impact on the health and well-being of a community. Clearly, there must be a paradigm shift that will create a regional culture of wellness.

Fort HealthCare leadership recognizes the need to take a more future-oriented approach to managing the health of the local population and a more proactive stance on improving the economic and social welfare of the region. "Traditionally, we’ve been rather inwardly focused. Now we want to become more focused on the health of the community as a whole," said Wallace.

With this in mind, Fort HealthCare’s new mission statement has evolved to become: Improve the health and well-being of our community. The new vision statement is: Be the healthiest community in Wisconsin. This is a new perspective on the organization’s role in influencing not only the health of individuals but also the economic welfare of the region.

Fort HealthCare is committed to greater engagement in the overall health of the community and is actively engaging other area players. As this occurs, the area will secure the long-term economic and physical welfare of its communities and people. This improved health climate will foster economic growth as employers are more willing to hire when local efforts yield more manageable health care costs.

Essential to Fort HealthCare’s ability to improve the health and well-being of the community are the partnerships created with area employers, churches, schools, municipalities and non-profit and governmental agencies. The ongoing Community Health Assessment seeks direct input regarding health and wellness priorities from these organizations.

Employers benefit from Fort HealthCare’s Business Health program as it provides corporate wellness services, ergonomic consultation, pre-employment physicals and drug screens, return-to-work services, workers’ compensation analysis and case management to hundreds of area companies. FortCare PPO, available to area self-insured companies, provides significant discounts on fees and helps control health care costs. Pricing transparency is a key strategy.

The Fort HealthCare Faith Nurse Program assists congregations in improving physical and spiritual health among their members. Churches work with the Fort HealthCare Faith Nurse Coordinator to provide resources, education and support. Fort HealthCare contracts with area school districts to provide school nurses and athletic trainers. Good health habits begin at an early age and young athletes are especially interested in proper health and conditioning that lead to improved performance.

Fort HealthCare believes everyone has the right to medical care regardless of current hardships. Whether providing financial assistance to patients with limited resources through charity care or improving access to care by sponsoring the Rock River Free Clinic and the Community Dental Clinic, Fort HealthCare enhances the medical safety net in the region. Access is aided by vouchers for free mammograms and the Health 365 wellness programming that includes free fasting lipid panels and blood glucose testing. Increasing enrollments among Medicaid-eligible patients has encouraged Fort HealthCare to expand access to primary care physicians and implement strategies to lessen the load in the emergency department.

Despite Fort HealthCare’s efforts to favorably impact the health status of their patients, serious health, social, economic and environmental issues remain. Obesity, diabetes, tobacco and alcohol abuse and other serious health problems are prevalent in area communities. The tables below show how residents of Jefferson and Walworth Counties rank regarding health factors, health outcomes, morbidity and mortality among others in Wisconsin.


Table 1: Healthy Wisconsin 2010 Rank by County: Health Outcomes and Health Factors

Table 2: Healthy Wisconsin 2010 Rank by County: Mortality and Morbidity

Health Outcomes

Health Factors




















St. Croix












St. Croix






Eau Claire





















According to the report Healthy Wisconsin 2010, residents of Jefferson County fare poorly in rankings of both health outcomes (29th) and health factors (23rd) among 72 Wisconsin counties. Jefferson County ranks 24th in mortality (years of potential life lost before age 75) and 34th in morbidity (self-reported fair or poor health, poor physical health days, poor mental health days and the percent of births with low birth weight). Residents of Walworth County, according to the survey, also showed the need for improved health.

Fort HealthCare’s strategic plan for 2011 and beyond will begin to address these critical issues of population health in a more global manner. "Today, we are in the health care business," says Wallace. "Tomorrow, I hope to be in the health business."

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Tomah Hospital Employees "Get Smart" When it Comes to the Flu

For the fifth year in row, Tomah Memorial Hospital (TMH) has achieved an employee flu vaccination rate of 80 percent or higher. Tomah Memorial Hospital’s Jan Path believes that a "pro-flu" vaccination attitude among staff is the key to its success.

"I am pretty lucky," said Path, TMH’s employee health and infection control nurse. "Our staff members have a strong desire to protect their patients and always have our patients’ best interests at heart."

This dedication to patients starts at the top with the hospital’s administration. When Path begins her first day of offering flu shots, the administration is eager and ready to be immunized.

"Our administration is lined up outside my door, sleeves rolled up and ready to get the shot," Path said. "They help set the example for other employees to be vaccinated as well."

The pro-flu vaccination attitude is something that has always been a part of the TMH culture. When Path started up the Employee Health Department more than 10 years ago, their vaccination rates were at 60 percent. While Path started off with a strong flu vaccination program, Tomah Hospital has continuously improved their rate—thanks to Path’s efforts.

One of the goals that Path set out to achieve was the creation of an enjoyable flu immunization process that helped encourage employees to be vaccinated. The hospital now creates a fun atmosphere when they begin to administer the shot during infection control week and Halloween.

"We tie in the vaccination program with Halloween and give candy to health care workers who were immunized," Path said. "One year I bought smarties—a common Halloween candy—and the catch phrase was ‘be smart, get the flu shot’."

While candy and catchy themes do the trick for most employees, there are still health care workers that refuse to be vaccinated. When this is the case, education is the key to encourage employees to be vaccinated. Path, along with her support staff member, attend staff meetings and inform employees one-on-one about the flu shot, all in hopes to dispel common misperceptions.

In the future, TMH will begin to have employees who weren’t vaccinated fill out declination sheets that state reasons for not receiving the shot. That said, whether employees are immunized or not, Path’s message to the employees remains the same.

"It’s about reminding people that they are not getting the flu shot for their own benefit," Path said. "They are protecting their coworkers, families and patients too.

"Thankfully, a majority of our staff realizes that."

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Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits: Injuries and Violence

A teen arrives in the emergency department by ambulance following a terrible car accident. A child receives head injuries while bicycling without a helmet. A woman walks into the emergency department with injuries inflicted by an abusive spouse. These are stories of pain and tragedy that hospital personnel see all too often. Injury is the most under recognized major public health problem facing the country and it is the leading cause of death in people ages 1 to 44 in Wisconsin. Wisconsin hospitals devote significant resources to reduce the number of intentional and unintentional injuries that occur in the communities they serve.

Backpack assessment helps take the weight off little scholars

Health care professionals from St. Joseph’s Hospital and West Bend Clinic offered schoolchildren a valuable health lesson with free backpack and posture assessments. "Oh My Aching Backpack" was one of several free programs offered in conjunction with the Kettle Moraine YMCA just prior to the opening of schools in West Bend.

Therapists placed loaded backpacks one-at-a-time on 120 children at the event, showing them how to adjust the straps for comfort and balance, and how to wear the backpack lower to bring back the shoulders and prevent muscle strain.

A backpack should be appropriate in size for the child and shouldn’t weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s own weight, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

"We are seeing more and more injuries in younger kids – grade school and middle school. At that age, they are still developing their muscle strength," said Melissa Tauben, physical therapist with West Bend Clinic Rehabilitation Center. She said too-heavy backpacks worn on a daily basis can cause chronic poor posture and back strain.

The back-to-school event also featured a "hands-on" hand washing demonstration called "Bug Off." The hospital’s infection preventionist used Glitter Bug gel and a sheltered black light to show children how germs remain on their hands even after they think they’ve washed their hands well.

"You don’t want to get germs and get sick," said kindergartener Zack Smith.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, West Bend

Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital takes ‘Dangerous Decibels’ lesson into area schools

Throughout the past school year, Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital & Clinics’ (SPMHC) audiologist Sandy Hoke, MS, CCCA, has occasionally taken on a new role — a fourth grade teacher. She’s visited a variety of area fourth grade classrooms to teach kids about their ears and how loud noises can affect how well you hear later in life with the program "Dangerous Decibels."

"We look at how the ear works, how the ear can be damaged and then we start helping the kids to understand what things in their environment can damage their hearing — particularly loud sounds," said Hoke.

Using a variety of activities, kids can literally hear the difference. One activity shows pictures of sounds: an orchestra, kids playing, a cricket, the rainfall, and so on. Hoke plays a sound through a filter that mimics hearing loss and the kids have to figure out which sound it is, which can sometimes be quite difficult. She can then play the sound without the filter and the difference is remarkable.

"Obviously the message is ‘Do you want to go through your life with everything sounding that flat?’" Hoke said.

A unique aspect of the program looks at society pressures kids face and gives them tools to handle those situations.

"If you go to a concert and you put ear plugs in your ear, you’re the weird kid," said Hoke. "We want to implant the attitude that helps them deal with that and helps them recognize that taking care of themselves is an OK thing to do."

"Dangerous Decibels" is presented to area classrooms free of charge, thanks to support from Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital & Clinics that allows Hoke to spend time coordinating and presenting the program, and a grant from Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital Foundation’s From the Heart series for the cost of the presentation materials. The program’s format and activities were developed by the Oregon Health & Science University-Oregon Hearing Research Center, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Marion Downs Hearing Center. Hoke spent three days at a seminar in Oregon to learn how to present the information in the way that best grabs the attention of a fourth grade class.

Hoke estimates she’s taught more than 500 students in the area so far, but the lessons go much further.

"I’ve had parents in the grocery store stop me and say ‘You visited my kid’s class and now he’s bugging me to wear ear plugs when I mow the lawn!’" Hoke recalled. "Well good! Then they paid attention."

Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital, Prairie du Sac

Tomah Memorial provides babysitting safety sessions

It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl: knowing how to properly take care of an infant is good lesson for any teen. Community Outreach staff at Tomah Memorial Hospital provided a number of American Red Cross Certified babysitting classes for children 11 years of age and older.

"Students leave the class feeling confident in the responsibilities of caring for children, and their parents can feel reassured and proud when their child gets their first babysitting job, knowing their son or daughter has the knowledge and skills to handle any situation," Community Outreach Department Health Educator Kasey Gegenfurtner said. TMH has been providing the classes for a number of years.

Tomah Memorial Hospital, Tomah

Well-trained babysitters a first line of defense for keeping kids safe

Based on a continuing number of requests from parents looking for well-trained babysitters, Nicole Hendrikse, patient education coordinator at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center, set out to develop a babysitting training program to teach young people how to make good, responsible decisions while keeping children in their safe care.

Babysitting and Beyond has been offered eight times since April of 2008, and by popular demand will continue to be scheduled at community sites through the remainder of the year and beyond. Except for one class taught at the hospital, four of the five classes were provided at community schools to make it easy for young people to attend. At the most recent after-school program in Oostburg, a record 28 fifth graders participated in the training, some of whom were driven there by their parents from other schools.

To develop the curriculum, Nicole met with 7th graders who went through other babysitting training programs to learn what they liked – and what they wanted to learn, but didn’t. Seeing their need through their eyes helped her formulate an approach to teaching it on their level. In addition, she incorporated American Heart Association Family and Friends CPR instruction and basic first aid, in addition to concepts she would want babysitters to know if they were babysitting for her four children.

To launch the initiative, Nicole called some schools to poll their interest in hosting the training and she received an enthusiastic "yes" from each of them. She developed brochures to be included in students’ folders so that parents would see them. Lastly, she listed the classes on the hospital’s Web site and newsletter.

Nicole reports that the students range in age from 10 to 12 years old and there has always been a mixture of boys and girls. That the number of classes is increasing is evidence that Babysitting and Beyond is filling a need in the community for parents – as well as kids who baby sit.

Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center

Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at

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