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Flu champion at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda

Martin Smith, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda

When you educate people, you empower them, explained the man behind the award-winning staff flu vaccine uptake at one hospital.

Martin Smith, the ‘flu champion’ at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, was full of praise for the efforts of his colleagues, nearly 92% of whom opted to get the vaccine last winter, earning the hospital a national award.

This is Martin’s fifth year at forefront of the flu vaccine campaign in the Lourdes. When he took on the role, the hospital was averaging an uptake from just 14% of staff.

“I could see that there were barriers that needed to be overcome to get people to buy into the vaccine and to see the value of it. The major one was tackling the myths and legends surrounding the vaccine itself. When you would hear people tell one another, ‘Oh I got the flu vaccine and two days later I got the flu’,” explained Martin.

To counteract the misinformation surrounding the vaccine, the hospital arranges education sessions, as well as one-to-ones.

“The one-to-ones are really important. We have a small enough staff of around 3,000 people so everyone knows everyone. That allows me the chance to stand and talk to colleagues and I can chat to them informally about the vaccine and any worries they may have about it. It’s very much about the personal touch.”

He insisted that you cannot pressurise people into getting the vaccine, instead he sees the friendly and persistent approach as the most productive.

“People here know that it’s going to be a bit of fun. The staff laugh and joke when they see me coming or when I’m going around putting the posters up. One was joking that there was no hiding place from me,” said Martin.


His posters have become legendary around the hospital and he changes them regularly to tie in with the season, be it Halloween, Christmas or New Year.

“I like to get them talking about the posters. I just put one up saying ‘If you want your best defence, get the vaccine’, and used a picture of the Liverpool goalkeeper and back four. I had loads coming up to me saying that the defence was rubbish this season. The main thing is to get people talking about it and talking about the vaccine,” he said.

He said that there has been very much a culture change in the hospital in the last few years and people wear the special lanyard that shows they have gotten the vaccine like a badge of honour.

“People are very proud of the hospital and are invested now in how we are performing. They will ask me what number we were at and how we were comparing to other hospitals. And they can see that the onus is on them to get the vaccine to protect themselves, their patients and their families. That’s the big change,” he said.

To help incentivise the education aspect, Martin holds a raffle each year before the campaign kicks off. Everyone that has completed the online staff education module is entered into the draw for the big prize.


The Lourdes flu champion also uses regular prize draws to promote a bit of friendly competition between departments to see which one can get the highest vaccine uptake.

“It gets people encouraging colleagues and each other to get the vaccine so their department can come out on top. It’s a bit of fun and it works really well,” he said.

Martin and his team made themselves available 24-7 to ensure that nobody had an excuse not to get the vaccine.

“We are here 24-7 to give the vaccine. My phone number is up all around the hospital and people just need to ring me and I will get to them with the vaccine. We can be there at the beginning or the end of shift, at weekends, whatever is needed,” he said.

Martin said his job is made easy each year by the complete support that he receives from the hospital general manager Fiona Brady and his Director of Nursing Adrian Cleary.

“They were right behind the campaign from the very start and have given my carte blanche to do whatever is needed. It makes all the difference when the people at the very top support what you are doing completely,” he added.