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Soldiers' Home 2013 Flu Shot 4The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke vaccinated 92 percent of all employees against influenza this season, establishing a new record at the home, nearly double the national average for health care providers in long-term care facilities. In Massachusetts, which has the highest rate of vaccinations of all states, 58 percent of Massachusetts residents receive influenza vaccines, and 85 percent of acute care hospital workers.

“We are very proud of our success and it really speaks volumes about our employees and their dedication to our health care mission in providing care to the veterans of our Commonwealth with honor and dignity in the safest possible environment,” said Paul Barabani, superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home.

Vaccinations began in September.  In addition to employees, the Soldiers’ Home vaccinated 96 percent of all long-term care veteran residents.  An outreach campaign that included weekly bulletins, staff meetings, one-on-one discussions with employees, and a robust incentive program helped ensure strong compliance. The flu vaccination rate is a top patient-safety goal as staff members at the Soldiers’ Home know that influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.

“Our employees know that adults who are 65 years of age or older are more likely to suffer flu-related complications if they get sick from influenza,” said Dziok.  “For us, it’s critical for our ability to care for our veterans and the best way for us to prevent the flu from spreading.”

The Soldiers’ Home also offered incentives such as the opportunity for any employee receiving the flu vaccine to enter a raffle drawing for donated prizes. For reaching 70 percent compliance, each employee who received the flu shot could pick up a Massachusetts lottery ticket.  For reaching 80 and 90 percent compliance, vaccinated employees will get a chance to win an Apple iPad and a one-night stay at an area resort.  The drawing takes place on Monday.

“We spent considerable effort to ensure our employees understand how important the influenza vaccination is for not only the health of the veterans we are honored to care for but also for their own health and that of their families,” said Dr. David Clinton, the home’s medical director.  “Our entire care team – clinical staff and non-clinical staff – know that influenza can be extremely dangerous for our elder veterans.  We take the threat seriously, and I believe that was the key to such a high compliance rate.”

“We pride ourselves in how closely everyone works with our veterans each and every day,” said Kris Dziok, a registered nurse and the home’s infection preventionist.  “There is therefore a considerable opportunity for potential exposure to influenza, which is why we take this so seriously.”

For more information about the flu, visit www.mass.gov/flu.

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Communications Director at the Soldiers’ Home of Holyoke

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