Flu prevention: Methods to reach staff, community

CLICK to Email
CLICK for Print Version

Flu prevention: Methods to reach staff, community

After reading this article, you will be able to: 

  • Identify methods for creating better interaction with staff for flu prevention 
  • Discuss ways to reach out to the community for preventive infection control services 
  • List ways to maximize the use of volunteer staff
  • Describe the benefits of more interactive training for staff and physicians

Sometimes it’s all about the marketing. 

Take flu shots, for instance. How do you best ensure that you reach the optimal percentage of staff? How about an attention-grabbing catchphrase? At Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, MD, a new theme is introduced every year during flu season. For 2010, the organization’s motto was “Boo to the Flu.” 

“We had Halloween-themed costumes and gave out candy and stickers saying, ‘I said Boo to the Flu,’ ” says Tracy Daugherty, RN, of Peninsula Regional’s employee health department. They also held a drawing for a $50 gift certificate. Special artwork was created for the event’s stickers and posters. 

Numerous visual cues throughout the building reminded employees to attend the flu clinics during their shifts. 

“It really did create a greater level of enthusiasm,” Daugherty says. “Most people heard about the giveaways and decided to check it out.” 

“The employee health program has grown to reach out to not only employees, but contractors, physicians, volunteers, students, everyone who is associated with the hospital,” says Karen Mihalik, RN, CIC, infection preventionist and member of Peninsula Regional’s flu team.

“Boo to the Flu” was a follow-up to last year’s theme, “Tackle the Flu,” which promoted awareness with similar giveaways and encouraged staff to wear their favorite football jerseys to work. 

This year, Peninsula Regional had a new level of support from upper management in the form of mandatory net learning. 

“This allows the organization to poll staff to find out why they may or may not be receiving the flu shot,” says Daugherty. “We can find out the employees’ reasons behind it, and educate to those reasons.” 

The net learning polling system has been in place for years, but it was not mandatory until now. Although the non-mandatory version was helpful, it was nowhere near as beneficial or educational as receiving feedback from all employees. 

“We can use the information we learned from it to develop the program in the future,” says Daugherty. 


Not just employees

The employee flu shot clinics are part of a larger outreach project spearheaded by Peninsula Regional’s overall healthcare awareness program. 

“It’s a multidisciplinary team,” says Mihalik. “It’s a big effort and not limited to just employees.” 

The program also includes family nights for flu shots and the incredibly popular “Drive-Thru” Flu Clinic for the community. 

“The team has been ongoing for over 15 years,” says Mihalik. 

The other key aspect is, of course, connecting with the community. “We’ve been doing the Drive-Thru clinic for 17 years,” says Mihalik. It began as an extension of the mall booth concept. “We expanded from the booth due to a distinct need for flu shots,” she says. 

At first, the Drive-Thru clinic was set up outside the hospital using the facility’s parking lot. The clinic has since moved down the road to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in order to accommodate the increasing number of patients who show up. 

“Last year we were just a few patients short of 7,000,” says Mihalik.

The team’s multidisciplinary approach comes into play when pulling together this enormously popular event. 

“We need staff to organize the lot, involve security, make sure supplies are ordered. [We need] people to handle the consent forms. We need staffing to support the clinicians who are on-site,” says Mihalik. 

All of this becomes a 16-hour event, which served more than 5,000 people this year.

“We’ve got it down to a science now,” says Mihalik.  

As expected with any project of this scale, there were lessons learned along the way. 

“Before we moved to the stadium, we encountered traffic issues when the popularity grew,” says Mihalik. When cars started parking in neighboring residential areas and blocking the street, they knew the clinic would need a larger venue to accommodate the increased turnout. 

“We’ve figured out now how to arrange the number of shot givers and consent takers, people to answer questions from patients, security to direct traffic,” says Mihalik. 

Impressively, all of this happens with in-house staff and volunteers. A combination of security and facilities management direct traffic (local police are aware of the event but are not on-site). The clinic itself is staffed by 10 nurses at a time on an availability-based schedule. They rotate in and out as needed, with a core group of leaders on-site at all times. 

No one is required to participate—everyone who works on the clinic does so voluntarily. 

The Drive-Thru is set up in an orderly manner. Rows of cars literally drive up to a tent, under which nurses wait on each side of the car to administer shots. Typically there are four lanes of traffic with two nurses manning each lane. Support staff act as runners to keep the nurses administering the shots supplied with vaccines—the vaccine is temperature sensitive and thus needs to be kept cool. The runners also keep each station stocked with alcohol preps. 

Additionally, the clinic provides an educational service to patients. Before passing through the tents, they are provided with information on the flu, why vaccination is important, and key product information about the vaccine used. 

“It’s phenomenal—our staff is able to give 300 shots an hour,” says Mihalik.

The clinic is especially popular with the elderly, especially those for whom mobility may be a problem, because of the drive-up feature. 

Word of mouth alone goes a long way to spread the news about upcoming clinics, but Peninsula Regional also runs advertisements and notices on television and radio. The hospital’s main phone number also has an automated recording that provides additional information about upcoming clinics. 

Recent media attention on the flu and flu vaccination has had a distinct effect on public interest, says Daugherty. 

“The news has made people more proactive,” she says. “There’s been more literature since H1N1 out there for people to read and educate themselves with.” 

Not surprisingly, staff receive a lot of questions about whether the live virus is used. The clinics are exclusively for flu shots, not the intranasal spray vaccination sometimes used. However, they do have preservative-free versions of the vaccine for those who might be allergic to preservatives.



Looking for ways to better reach your staff, make sure they retain educational presentations, and ensure that you have tailored those presentations to existing educational gaps? Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, MD, has made use of very simple but effective technology to maximize its educational opportunities for physicians and other staff. 

“It’s easiest to think of it as America’s Funniest Home Videos and how the audience is able to vote on their favorite videos,” says Karen Mihalik, RN, CIC, infection preventionist at Peninsula Regional. 

A software program called TurningPoint® lets educators encourage participation in their classes by asking class members to submit responses to questions asked during a PowerPoint® presentation. 

“The class is provided with very simple electronic clickers which allow them to select the answer they think is right,” says Mihalik. 

The audience members choose their answers, and a graph appears in the PowerPoint showing how many audience members selected which answer—usually in a multiple-choice format. The program then shows what percentage of answers was correct or incorrect and provides the answers and appropriate explanations. 

“This has gone over very well with physicians,” Mihalik says. “They hate sitting down to take a paper and pencil exam just like everyone else. This is more interactive, almost a game, and they’ve been very receptive to it.”

Traditionally difficult-to-reach groups such as surgery units and anesthesia departments have been extremely receptive to the new program. 

“Our education department loves it,” says Mihalik, who explains that the idea was brought to the organization’s attention by members of the education department who had encountered it through their own college-aged children—who were using a similar system in the classroom. 

Unlike other, more traditional educational offerings, it is impossible to know who answers correctly or incorrectly, but the organization does receive a scorecard demonstrating knowledge or lack thereof among staff members. 

The scorecard allows Peninsula Regional to immediately rectify knowledge deficits—education can be provided on the spot when the class demonstrates a lack of knowledge in a particular area. 

The program has been so successful that Peninsula upgraded from 35 clickers to 85 to allow additional educational opportunities. 

“I think it’s just a matter of finding the fun in how you do it,” says Mihalik. “We don’t lecture. We ask questions, then teach, and teach what they don’t know. It gives us the chance to hone in on what they didn’t understand.”