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4 Tips for Raising Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Workers

By Lena J. Weiner  
   August 24, 2015

Many healthcare organizations now make immunization a condition for employment. Here's how to facilitate the process of getting a flu shot.

Late summer might not seem like a good time to start thinking about healthcare worker immunization, but with classes at schools and colleges already commencing and providing fresh opportunities for germs to spread, now is the time to get these programs underway.

One strong motivator: Federal regulations now require hospitals to count vaccination rates for anyone who works in a healthcare facility between October 1 and March 31.

Linda Burns Bolton, RN

In anticipation of the regulation—or as a result—many healthcare organizations now make immunization a condition for employment. "I tell [employees], you either get vaccinated or you get deployed to a non-patient care area," says Linda Burns Bolton, RN, president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives and vice president and chief nursing officer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Push to Vaccinate Healthworkers is On

Immunization rates in her hospital increased from 88% to 95% once wearing a mask became the only other option other than non-patient care to healthcare workers who refused a yearly flu shot.

Most of Bolton's workers were already happy to get their shots, maybe because she discovered a few techniques along the way to make immunization less of a chore.

1. Executive Authority
"It's important to model the change you want to see in others," says Bolton, recommending a special immunization session at a board meeting for members of the C-suite to kick off the immunization push.

"The C-suite needs to not only be immunized, but they need to allow pictures to be taken, and then to allow those pictures to be used in marketing materials. When hospital leadership gets flu shots, others follow."

Flu Vaccination Pressures Ratchet Up at Hospitals

Carolyn Bridges, MD

"Administrative support from the top down is an important part of this work," says Carolyn Bridges, MD, associate director of adult immunizations in the immunization services division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. If hospital leadership is clearly behind immunizations, it sends a clear message that immunization is a priority at this facility.

"Make sure the recommendations around immunization are clear," she says. Also, make sure the medical staff have input in the process—once they sign on, getting everyone else to comply will be easier.

2. Educate, Educate, Educate
"This is a great starting point for a conversation on the importance of immunization," says Bridges.

Bolton echoes her sentiments. "Make sure the staff understand the 'why' behind this. Assure them that we are immunizing ourselves and our patients, to protect both ourselves and our community."

Influenza vaccination has been getting a disproportionate amount of attention lately, but healthcare workers shouldn't neglect other important immunizations, including MMR, TDAP and Hepatitis. "Many adults—including healthcare workers—neglect to stay up-to-date on their immunizations," says Bridges, For example, she says, only 20% of adults under the age of 65 recommended to receive pneumococcal vaccine actually get it.

Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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