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Health System Goes All-Out for Employee Vaccination

Cook Children's Health Care System of Fort Worth, Texas, has boosted its employees' flu vaccination rates from 66 percent to 84 percent in the past two years.

Active and committed leadership, innovative communications, and all-out effort are part of the winning recipe at Cook Children's Health Care System of Fort Worth, Texas, which has boosted its employees' flu vaccination rates from 66 percent to 84 percent in the past two years. This year's vaccination program will achieve at least 85 percent, Joyce Hood, MPH, RN, COHN-S, director of Occupational Health Services, said in an interview Friday. The system won an American Nurses Association Best Practices in Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Campaign award last year.

Hood co-wrote an AAOHN Journal article explaining how the system developed and carried out its 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 vaccination programs for the more than 4,500 employees working at a medical center, a physician network, a home health company, a health foundation, and the health care system. Hood's co-author is Andrea Smith, Ph.D., RN, CPNP, director of Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice for Cook Children's Medical Center.

"We have a very strong program to build on. You have to do whatever it takes to remove the barriers to vaccination," Hood said. If that means opening at 5:30 a.m. and providing vaccinations on weekend nights to workers scheduled at those times, that's what you do, she said.

The system cares for children and saw a surge of flu cases last spring. Its Swine Flu Team meets regularly and communicates with employees via intranet and e-newsletters. The theme of the system's vaccination program this year is "Take Three for You and Me" -- building on CDC's "Take Three" theme, it encourages workers to take the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots for themselves, those they care for, and those they love, Hood said. On the intranet site, a filled syringe from which vaccine diminished as the vaccination rate rose was a popular tool last year, and it will be repeated this year, she said.

Support from upper management "is the key element, to be honest with you," she said. Photos of the leaders being vaccinated at an October meeting will be distributed to show their support.

In a Sept. 3 H1N1 briefing, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden offered reassurance about the safety of this year's flu vaccines but also promised his agency "will look very, very carefully to see whether there's a problem with this vaccine in terms of safety. We don't anticipate that there will be. It's produced in the same way the flu vaccine is produced each year. It's a new strain, just as we put new strains into the flu vaccine each year, and flu vaccination has a long-term, very good safety record with literally hundreds of millions of doses having been given."

Click here to read Cook Children's H1N1 advice to patients and families and here for the latest federal government information about the flu.

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