December 1, 2011

Vaccination event provided lessons for future

Featured Image

Vanderbilt more than doubled the existing world record for the total number of vaccinations given in an eight-hour period during October’s Flulapalooza event. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vaccination event provided lessons for future

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Flulapalooza mass vaccination drill was a resounding success, and planners are looking ahead to future exercises to help the institution be even more prepared in the event of a real-world emergency.

Many lessons were learned in October when free flu vaccines were given to University and Medical Center faculty, staff, volunteers and students during the daylong event.

Pam Hoffner, MSN, R.N.

Pam Hoffner, MSN, R.N.

Flulapalooza, held under a tent on the grassy lawn between Light Hall and the VA Campus, began at 6 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m., although the hours for Guinness World Record consideration were between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“I think our plan worked well,” said Pam Hoffner, MSN, R.N., director of Emergency Preparedness at VUMC.

“We have a really good start on how to maintain an efficient patient flow through a vaccination area, and we have a great plan that can be used as a template for other institutions.

“But we will be revising the plan to get the tent flow at a faster pace, based on the recommendation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consultants who were on hand to observe. If we had a true public health emergency, we’d want to vaccinate more people at a faster rate.”

The official goal of the event, a joint effort between the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Vanderbilt Occupational Health and Vanderbilt Student Health, was to test the Medical Center’s mass vaccination sub plan as if there really were a public health emergency requiring mass vaccination.

The second goal of the event, one used to generate excitement for the drill, was to go for the world record. Before Vanderbilt, that record was held by San Diego’s Kaiser Permanente for giving 6,217 doses in eight hours.

Forty-four nurses from a labor pool of 138 worked simultaneously at individual stations in the Flulapalooza tent with a separate group of volunteers maintaining patient flow and logistics.

The team planning and implementing the exercise met earlier this summer with a University of Louisville representative, where a similar event to vaccinate for H1N1 was held in 2009, to plan the safest and most efficient way to move four lines through the tent.

A CDC principal investigator on large-scale dispensing and emergency response supervised students from Georgia Tech who were on hand to conduct a time-motion study during the exercise.

The CDC will analyze the information and send recommendations to Vanderbilt to use for future tests of the mass vaccination plan.

“They were impressed with our flow, but think it can be better,” Hoffner said. “We will be able to take that information and redesign the tent flow to be more efficient based on what they have recommended.”

Future exercises might include pediatric patients and family members of faculty and staff, Hoffner said.

Other lessons learned from the October study included the need for bigger and better signage, changing the staffing plan from four-hour to two-hour shifts to combat fatigue among the vaccinators who stood the entire time, and moving the labor pool tent closer to the vaccination tent.

Hoffner said that Vanderbilt now has a very large, trained labor pool of vaccinators to draw from for future exercises and in case of a real-world emergency.

They include exempt Vanderbilt staff and nursing and pharmacy students from Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb and University of Tennessee-Memphis.

“Using exempt staff as our staffing plan served us very well,” she said. “But we were disappointed to find out that when we attempted to utilize a retired nursing pool, many had let their licenses expire and couldn’t give vaccinations.

“The Maturing Workforce Group from Nursing Leadership is now in the process of working with retired nurses to help them keep their licenses current,” Hoffner said.