Joint Commission Resources (JCR) announced the results of the first-ever Flu Vaccination Challenge, a program launched just prior to the 2008/2009 flu season to help increase flu vaccination among health care workers. During the program's inaugural year, JCR challenged hospitals across the country to achieve a seasonal flu vaccination rate of 43 percent or higher among their staff. The goal was based on results from a 2005/2006 national survey of health care worker seasonal flu vaccination rates.

With help from the Flu Vaccination Challenge, about 1.1 million health care workers were vaccinated against the seasonal flu, and 94 percent of participating hospitals met "the Challenge."+ According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all health care workers should be vaccinated to help decrease the spread of seasonal flu to patients, which can lead to serious health risks and even death. However, in recent years, flu vaccination rates among health care workers have continued to remain low. JCR is a not-for-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission.

Flu Vaccination Challenge Results: 2008/2009 Flu Season

More than 1,700 hospitals - including at least one hospital from each of the 50 states - participated in the Flu Vaccination Challenge. Approximately 78 percent of participating hospitals increased their health care workers' flu vaccination rate from the previous year. On average, the total number of health care workers vaccinated against seasonal flu among participating hospitals increased by 14 percent.+

"We are thrilled with the level of participation and enthusiasm from the hundreds of hospitals across the country that participated in 'the Challenge'; however, we believe organizations can do better," said Barbara M. Soule, R.N., M.P.A., C.I.C., practice leader, Infection Prevention and Control Services, JCR. "Despite the encouraging results, nearly 40 percent of health care workers among the participating hospitals were not vaccinated and remained unprotected against the flu. Influenza occurs in health care settings and studies have shown that health care workers are a potential source of these infections."

"All individuals who work in a health care facility should be vaccinated against the flu," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine, and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "When we talk about whom to vaccinate, we have to change our mindset. Vaccination shouldn't be limited to doctors and nurses, it should be encouraged for everyone who works in a health care facility. The flu is a highly contagious disease; therefore if you work in a health care setting, you may be needlessly putting patients at risk if you are not vaccinated against this preventable disease."

The Joint Commission defines health care workers as all people who provide care, treatment and services in the health care organization, including those receiving pay, volunteers and health profession students.

Program Goals: 2009/2010 Flu Season

JCR is "raising the bar" and introducing a tiered approach to setting this year's seasonal flu vaccination goals. Health care facilities will be challenged to reach a 65, 75 or 90 percent vaccination rate. The goals were determined by evaluating last year's results and recognizing that most participating hospitals surpassed the national flu vaccination rate. The tiered approach encourages health care facilities to strive for a better vaccination rate than achieved the previous year. Those that do will be recognized by JCR for their dedication to keeping their employees healthy and helping to protect their patients. JCR is also broadening "the Challenge" to include health care workers in ambulatory and long-term care facilities, emphasizing the importance of flu vaccination and patient safety beyond the hospital setting.

Soule continued, "This flu season, we are encouraging hospitals to participate in 'the Challenge', leading to an increased flu vaccination rate among health care workers nationwide. JCR is committed to providing participants with additional tools and resources to help achieve even greater success."

Efforts to increase vaccination coverage among health care workers are supported by The Joint Commission. The Joint Commission requires accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and long term care organizations to offer the flu vaccine annually on site to staff and licensed independent practitioners. JCR is committed to continuously improving the safety and quality of care in hospitals. The Flu Vaccination Challenge is one way to contribute to this goal by increasing vaccination rates among health care workers. Resources for participants in "the Challenge" include a complimentary seasonal influenza monograph released in June by The Joint Commission, a myths and facts fact sheet, virtual poster presentations and audioconference downloads as well as a software program for participants to easily track employee flu vaccination rates at their organization.

Source: Joint Commission Resources

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