Fighting flu through creativity and compassion
Terry Burger, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CIC
Lehigh Valley Health Network
Terry Burger and her Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) colleagues are champions in the fight against influenza. Through their creativity and leadership, more than 125,000 people have been vaccinated in their community since 1999.
Burger leads a 35-person, multidisciplinary task force at LVHN that coordinates annual distribution of free flu vaccinations to the community. In the early years of the program, older and frail people— along with parents and their young children—stood in long lines waiting to receive the shot. In 2005, Burger and her task force transformed the program into a two-day drive-through event held in a large parking lot. The novel vaccination program has been hugely successful, attracting more participants each year, including hard-to-reach populations. In 2014, 900 LVNH employee volunteers vaccinated more than 14,000 people.
“Immunizations are an important part of infection control and removing barriers to vaccination is critical to achieving success,” Burger said. “This program enables us to reach populations who wouldn’t be vaccinated because of cost or access. Participants can receive vaccinations at no cost from the comfort of their own car.” The drive-through program also has served as a real-word test for a mass-distribution model that could be used in the event of a pandemic or bioterrorism requiring mass vaccination or prophylaxis.
Each year, Burger and her team introduce improvements to their program, such as hand warmers for volunteers and the ability for people to book an appointment window. After 17 years, Burger has valuable perspective on how to make large-scale immunization programs successful.
“Go visit someone else’s program and start small,” she said. “Just keep thinking that failure is not an option and build on your successes.”