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Waterford staff record flu vaccine success

 Four women in medical uniforms standing in a clinical setting.

Almost 90% of the staff at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) came forward last year to get their flu vaccine, the highest percentage of staff in a hospital setting in the country. Speaking about the success, UHW Director of Nursing and Integration Orla Kavanagh credited it as a “result of a number of years of work. Staff uptake of the flu vaccine at UHW has been improving year on year, with last year’s campaign the result of an accumulation of efforts and trying different strategies.”

The flu season typically begins in early October and lasts until the end of April. For the team at UHW, however, it is not long after the flu season finishes before they begin working on the next.

Orla outlines how they start their planning in May to “make sure all our plans are in place prior to flu season the following October. To date, UHW have has trained 30 peer vaccinators. Most importantly, we have at least one peer vaccinator in each speciality or department in the hospital.

“This means that peer vaccinators are known to their colleagues and can use opportunities like a cup of coffee in the staff room to chat about getting the flu vaccine. It’s about the individual investment in each department.”

All of the UHW flu peer vaccinators are trained to give COVID-19 vaccines for this season too.

Orla continues: “The flu vaccine is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mobile vaccinators are also on hand to vaccinate staff. Sometimes scheduled or set clinics may not suit people or their work-life that particular day. Having the flu vaccine available 24/7 means staff can get vaccinated at any time that works for them.”

Key to their campaign is having a robust communications strategy:

“UHW have a dedicated flu email address and WhatsApp groups that we use to communicate daily with staff throughout the season. Our team regularly check in with peer vaccinators and staff to identify if staff have certain questions. This informs the myth-busting campaigns they run to make sure people have the facts."

“Targeting processes and people becomes ever more important as the flu season progresses. The first few weeks of the season are more straightforward. The hard work begins after that, when it becomes much more about targeting,” she added.

The team regularly monitors uptake data during the season to identify departments with the highest and lowest uptakes.  While UHW use many different strategies, their goal remains the same – to protect staff, patients and their families. Orla stresses that “our patients are protected if our staff are protected.”

“Flu outbreaks have been a challenge for UHW in the past,” adds Orla. “However, last season we saw a massive decrease in not only the amount of flu outbreaks on the wards, but also the number of staff out sick because of the flu.”

UHW are determined to beat their uptake this year: “It’s an ambitious goal, but as always, we are up for the challenge,” Orla concludes.