Reviewing vaccination policy with employees can increase compliance

Creating and reviewing an influenza immunization policy with healthcare workers may increase compliance and prevent the spread of the flu virus at healthcare facilities, according to a New Hampshire health official.

Mary Flynn, the executive director of the Rochester Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, N.H., said that most families and residents of the nursing facility are concerned about picking up infections like the flu. While the facility encouraged staff members to get immunized against the flu, different approaches to incentivize employees were only minimally effective, McKnight's reports.

"At first, we tried an educational approach: We sent out notices explaining the benefits of immunization and offered to pay for flu shots for all employees," Flynn said, according to McKnight's. "We had good response to that, but it fell short of our expectations. Next, we offered a chance for cash rewards to anyone who had gotten a flu shot. That motivated a few more people. We also offered food rewards, including free chocolate and Dunkin Donut gift cards. Everything worked...a little. Each incentive persuaded three or four new people to get a flu shot. But it was a slow and painful process."

The facility next created a one-page company policy called the Informed Refusal of Influenza Immunization. Employees signed the compulsory document but paid little attention to what the document said. The document explained how immunization is important to protect vulnerable seniors and how employees who fail to get vaccinated can be prevented from working during an outbreak.

"Once we reviewed this policy with immunization holdouts at our center, compliance increased dramatically," Flynn said, according to McKnight's. "Employees now realize, if they didn't before, that we're serious about protecting our center from influenza. And they also know that if we have an outbreak here, unvaccinated staff members will not be allowed to work. Realizing that a flu outbreak could mean no paycheck has really driven the message home."

Flynn said that the vaccination rate at the facility is above 85 percent and that it recently received a deficiency-free rating from the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The JCAHO said that the facility's flu prevention policies played a major role in the high rating.