50 Years Of Experience: Nurse Keeps Precious Cargo Safe

She’s the fourth generation of nurses in her family and Terri Jones has found her niche in the healthcare profession. In honor of her son who was killed in a car accident, she dedicates her life to securing babies in car seats. 

Terri Jones reviews a spreadsheet of progress and says her whole life is about numbers. One big number sticks out among the others – 10,000. That’s how many car seats Jones and her team at IU Health Arnett Hospital has checked since May of 2009. More than 3,000 new car seats have been provided through the program.  

“The only numbers that really count are the 31 babies who were in a wreck and weren’t hurt because they were in a car seat,” said Jones, who turns 70 in October. She is also celebrating her 50th year of nursing. She’s received quite a bit of attention from co-workers and Lafayette media outlets for her dedication to nursing and the car seat program. But hitting a milestone number – both personally and professionally – means more about the path to learning than it does about the hoopla.

“I look at the education as being far reaching. Maybe something I taught one person they taught someone else. I tell the nurses ‘keep telling the patients to have the infant car seat rear facing,’ because maybe if they didn’t get it the first time they’ll get it the next time. Learning is cumulative,” said Jones, who was hired at IU Health as a nurse educator in 2008. She came in with 35 years of nursing experience in OB and surgery and a year after joining IU Health she initiated the car seat safety program.

“I started seeing a lot of newborns who didn’t have car seats to go home in. It got me thinking about how we could change that and help keep them safe,” said Jones. When she began reviewing crash testing something clicked like a seat buckle and it made her think of her son.

Jason Jones, the fourth oldest of Jones’ five children was killed in a car accident on Sept. 11, 1990. He was a senior at Harrison High School. From the hospital windows she can see the country road – the scene of the fatal crash.

“You don’t ever get over that. I know of 31 kids that we checked their car seats and they were later in an accident and never hurt. I believe a seatbelt would have saved my son’s life,” said Jones. As part of the car seat safety program Jones and her team members, who have been trained in car seat fitting, meet families in the emergency room and provide car seats for the precious cargo leaving the hospital.

“Every time I come in to do a car seat fitting after a wreck I say ‘thank goodness they survived.’” The majority of the car seat checks are with newborns at the hospital. The first year of the program, the hospital offered 404 free checks and last year technicians provided 1,201 checks. They average about 100 a month.

On a recent week day afternoon, Jones met patient Sandy Amador who had just given birth to a beautiful girl named Elianna. As Amador and Elianna’s father, Salvador Reynoso were preparing to leave the hospital for their 45-minute drive home, they looked to Jones to help secure the car seat before transporting their newborn. She checked the model number to be sure there was no recall and then checked the base tightly situated in the back seat.

“This is our first child so this is all new to us. She’s so little and this is such a big responsibility. I just want to make sure we’re doing everything right,” said Amador, who road in the backseat with the precious bundle. Jones explained that the baby should not be wrapped in a blanket when placed in the car seat and demonstrated how the straps should be secured over her shoulders like a pair of overalls.

“She needs to be rear facing up to two-years-old. This car seat goes up to 35 pounds and then she will need a new front-facing seat,” she said, adding that the couple could call or return to the hospital if they had any questions. Jones has been known to purchase car seats from her own funds when she meets a patient who needs a special size.

“Terri has done a truly wonderful job in building the car seat program at IU Arnett.  She took on this role with quite a passion, and has helped build a really strong and skilled team of car seat technicians who do a fantastic job serving our community and keeping babies and children as safe in their vehicles as they can be,” said Selina McNulty, manager of labor & delivery, mother baby at Arnett. Jones also spends time training technicians at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

One of the best parts of her job she says is meeting new parents and talking about the babies. She doesn’t hesitate to change little Elianna’s diaper before sitting her in the new car seat. All the while, talking to the parents about keeping their daughter safe during travels.

“I can’t imagine not doing this,” said Jones, who has 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. “It’s an integral part of me. You don’t choose your passion; your passion chooses you.”

More about Jones:

  • She is the oldest of six children born to the Lois Taylor and the late Walter Taylor.
  • She can’t remember ever wanting to be anything but a nurse. Her mom was a nurse, her great aunt was a nurse, her sister is a nurse, and she has two nieces and a daughter who are nurses.
  • She is a graduate of Purdue University.
  • She lives on six acres and enjoys gardening and spending time with her grandchildren at the lake and on Disney vacations.
  • She spends many weekends transporting rescue dogs to shelters across the state.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.