Janet Johnson

Spreading Laughter, Preventing Infection

Janet Johnson

Janet Johnson, BSN, RN, MSAS, CIC
Avera Sacred Health Hospital
Yankton, SD

For Janet Johnson, the issue of immunizing healthcare workers against influenza was as daunting a task within her Yankton, South Dakota hospital as it is within healthcare facilities throughout the U.S.

That was, of course, until the Infection Control coordinator at Avera Sacred Health Hospital transformed herself into the persona of “Nurse Moonbeam,” a 1960s RN, determined to ban the influenza bug among healthcare workers.

As Moonbeam, Johnson dons flowered wigs of purple, red, or blue—“for some reason, blue hair gets the best compliance rate”— and even wears a Nurse Moonbeam ID badge while pushing her mobile, flu-fighting cart from unit to unit, bearing such slogans as “ban the bug,” (which in Moonbeam’s world is as worthy of protest as the bomb was in the 1960’s), and “Nurse Moonbeam delivers painless immunization.”

And while this shtick gets loads of laughs, one can’t refute the results that Nurse Moonbeam has achieved, because Johnson has a healthcare personnel (HCP) vaccination rate of 95 percent compliance throughout the hospital, while the rest of the nation struggles to increase its HCP compliance rate of 40 percent.

“Even with the H1N1 situation, Avera’s vaccine compliance rate was 92 percent,” said Johnson, who decided to protest the flu one starry night. “We live on a river and one night I was on the bank, overlooking the moon, and I came up with the name Nurse Moonbeam. So I bought a bunch of wigs and clothes to act the part. Moonbeam has a better wardrobe than I do!”

Her colleagues love Moonbeam. So much so, that once, when she decided that the gig was too silly and that she’d retire the act and would wear her normal uniform, the response among Avera’s 1,000 healthcare workers was so negative, Johnson immediately resurrected the hippie and her immunization rate again zoomed upwards.

In nominating Johnson as an APIC hero, her peers called her “tenacious, creative and resourceful.” Indeed, there must be something to this, whereas Johnson isn’t just Nurse Moonbeam, she’s also the creator of the “Two Minute In-Service;” a system whereby she promises to educate people on products and procedures within two minutes, “or they can walk away when time’s up.”

“You can write volumes of policies, but when you tell someone about IV prep, new products, different bundles, etc., and you do it face-to-face, the word spreads much faster and it’s a fun way to learn,” said Johnson. “I hear my words reiterated throughout the halls.”

Johnson has worked for Avera Sacred Heart Hospital since 1987 and has been infection control coordinator since 1989.