A Special Visit to the DCAM Vaccination Clinic
cdc visit

Jennifer Burns, CPNP, APN, clinical director of the pediatric family travel clinic and immunization program, (left) revamped the DCAM immunization clinic's strategy with Kimberly Taaca, RN, director of pediatric outpatient operations, to ensure that the boost in H1N1 vaccine supply met the already high demand.

Photo by David Christopher

By Kadesha Thomas

Nationally, getting the H1N1 flu vaccine has been as difficult as getting tickets to a Rolling Stones concert.

But at the Medical Center, nearly 2,300 people, mostly children, have been able to receive the highly sought-after H1N1 flu vaccine since it became available in October, thanks to several novel strategies from administrators and clinicians at the DCAM Pediatric Infectious Disease Clinic.

The clinic has been so successful at distributing the vaccine that it prompted a surprise visit from the country’s top immunization officer on Saturday, December 5, to congratulate the clinic’s team—including registered nurses, nurse practitioners, fellows coordinators and volunteers—for doing what few other medical centers have. The clinic's organizers also were honored a Service Hero Award at December's Leadership Forum.

“It was clear to me on my visit to the Medical Center’s immunization clinic that the team had used passion, creativity, and longstanding experience to develop a major service to the community,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, rear admiral for the U.S. Public Health Service and director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “The energy and commitment of staff and volunteers and their hands-on approach to problem-solving were impressive. It was an inspiring visit, and I congratulate the leadership and staff for adapting their usual seasonal influenza vaccination efforts to incorporate the H1N1 vaccines.”

Nationwide, the biggest obstacle to distributing the H1N1 vaccine has been sporadic shortages in supply, though this strain of flu virus is significantly more contagious than seasonal flu. Because seasonal flu manufacturers also make the H1N1 vaccine, production has continued in shifts. “When they make seasonal flu vaccines, they stop making H1N1 and vice versa,” explained Kimberly Taaca, RN, director of pediatric outpatient operations and an administrator in the immunization clinic. The demand surpasses the supply, because “everyone that wants the vaccine wants it now, regardless of if they are in a high-risk group.”

Jennifer Burns, CPNP, APN, clinical director of the pediatric family travel clinic and immunization program, came up with several creative approaches to address the spike in demand once more H1N1 doses became available. On October 17, the immunization clinic expanded hours to Saturdays. Two weeks later, hours expanded to include Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Taaca then had the vision to increase the target audience to include not only the Medical Center’s pediatric patients, but also all employees and their families.

“Once supply increased, we were happy to open it up to people,” said Burns, who also administers flu vaccines at two other health centers affiliated with the Medical Center. “By having off-hours there are fewer problems with parking and no problem getting patients in and out.”

A large part of the success is because of a “very receptive staff,” Burns added. Many of the nursing staff members have worked overtime or volunteered to give immunizations, control patient flow and talk with parents about some of the misconceptions around the H1N1 vaccine.

On average, between 80 and 250 people have been vaccinated per clinic, some coming from as far as Wisconsin. When families bring in a child, the staff also urges the parents and other children present to get the vaccine.

“The family unit is just not children,” said Burns, who has given the vaccine to her husband, brother and mother. “And if I had children, they would get it too. I want to keep the people who are watching the children well.”

“You have to be flexible in a pandemic situation,” she added. “To me, we’re just doing what we should be doing.”