If more hospital doctors and nurses were to be given a flu jab, fewer hospital patients would contract flu and/or develop pneumonia. This is the conclusion reached by UMCG researcher Josien Riphagen on the basis of her research findings. She devised a campaign that resulted in a 23.7% rise in the vaccination rate among hospital staff, while the number of patients who contracted flu and/or developed pneumonia while in hospital dropped from 9.7% to 3.9%. ‘So doctors and nurses who have a flu jab really do help to prevent flu from spreading among patients’, explains Riphagen. She will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 28 October.
Riphagen developed the flu jab campaign on the basis of a questionnaire among hospital staff. ‘This helps us to understand the factors that encourage or discourage staff from having a flu jab.’ As an example, Riphagen cites the timing. It is important to offer flu jabs at a convenient moment, at the time when shifts change, for example. The vaccination campaign was supported by the V&VN Dutch Nurses’ Association (Vereniging Verpleegkundigen en Verzorgenden Nederland).
All eight Dutch university medical centres (UMCs) took part in the study. The two hospitals that had already introduced an effective vaccination programme for staff took part as an external control group. Half of the remaining six hospitals launched the new vaccination campaign and the other UMCs ran the flu campaign that they had used in previous years. The effect of the new campaign was clear from the marked increase in the vaccination rate among hospital staff.
Riphagen then examined the number of patients in the hospital who had been infected with the flu virus and/or developed pneumonia during their hospital stay. She used the figures from the Internal Medicine and Paediatrics departments in every hospital. The research was carried out during the flu periods in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Riphagen ascertained that 9.7% of patients in the Internal Medicine departments of the three control UMCs contracted flu and/or developed pneumonia, compared with 3.9% of the patients in the UMCs that had introduced the new vaccination campaign. This drop in the number of infections corresponds with the higher vaccination rate among staff.
The flu campaign devised and introduced by Riphagen ultimately cuts costs. ‘The power of this sustained flu jab campaign lies in the fact that we try to respond to the thoughts and wishes of hospital staff. Quite often, they are simply not sufficiently aware. Doctors and nurses need to know that the vaccination will not only help them, but also, and more importantly, their patients’, says Riphagen. The Epidemiology department of the UMCG has now received funding from ZonMw to implement the vaccination campaign in other hospitals in the north of the Netherlands.
Josien Riphagen (Epe, 1984) studied Medicine at Utrecht University. She carried out her PhD research in the Epidemiology department of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), where she was supervised by Prof. E. Hak, Professor of Clinical Pharmacoepidemiology in the University of Groningen. The research was funded by ZonMw, and Riphagen’s thesis is entitled ‘Influenza vaccination of health care workers.’ Riphagen is currently training to become a GP in Utrecht.
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