How do you vaccinate thousands of caregivers in one day?

With the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign, Christiana Care pulled off a monumental vaccination achievement that will go down in public health history.

In 17 hours, on Thursday, Oct. 11, 7,868 employees, volunteers and allied staff professionals were vaccinated against the flu.

The health system, bent on vaccinating everyone eligible in one 24-hour campaign, had vaccine stations set up in six dozen locations throughout Delaware and neighboring areas of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The supreme effort by Christiana Care to put a damper on flu this season attracted a whirlwind of media coverage, with 21 national, regional and local news outlets producing favorable stories on the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign.

The success of the event was a resounding affirmation of Christiana Care’s commitment to protecting the health of its patients, caregivers and community.

Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, Christiana Care president and CEO, has a big smile as she gets ready for her 2018 flu shot.

“By vaccinating so many employees in a single day, we fulfill our commitment to anticipate the needs of others by preventing the flu from spreading among our caregivers, patients, visitors and the community,” said Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, president and CEO of Christiana Care. “And through this effort we showed that we can use our resources wisely and effectively on an enormous scale.”

Planning for success

Planning for the event began in February 2018, when numerous Christiana Care departments – led by Infection Prevention, Emergency Management and Employee Health – met to determine whether the organization could compress its annual flu vaccination campaign into a single day. Logistical planning for the #HitMeWithYourFluShot event began in earnest in June.

In past years, Christiana Care has held the voluntary employee flu vaccination campaign over several weeks in October and has succeeded in routinely vaccinating more than 90 percent of its workforce.

But there was a dual purpose to executing the event this year within a 24-hour period. Emergency Management designed the event so it could double as a drill to ascertain how effective the organization would be at vaccinating all its employees if a real emergency should occur.

“We aspired through this exercise to glean critical information and data on what resources would be required for a major incident, such as a bioterrorism attack,” said Ed Durst, coordinator for Emergency Management. “It was an opportunity for us to use our resources wisely and effectively, and demonstrate our commitment to being curious and to continuously look for ways to innovate.”

The event also ensured that Christiana Care staff had a convenient way to get vaccinated before the flu season peaked, said Marci Drees, M.D., MS, FACP, DTMH, infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist.

Scott Raymond, RT and Joselph Walsh, RN, from Vascular Interventional Radiology were happy participants in the #hitmewithyourflushot event.

Flu vaccination has important benefits, as it can reduce flu-related illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school, as well as prevent hospitalizations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this year that 80,000 people died from the flu during the previous flu season, the worst flu season in the United States since 1976. In recent years, the number of flu-related deaths averaged between 12,000 and 56,000.

Leading by example

“As one of the nation’s leading health systems, we had an opportunity through this event to lead by example and show our neighbors in our community how much importance we place on getting a flu shot,” Dr. Drees said. “Although our weeks-long events of the past were successful, we as caregivers are committed to seeking new knowledge and being open to change, and this ambitious endeavor was a way for us to take a significant first step this flu season to keeping our workforce, their families, and our patients protected.”

Christiana Care staff at 13 Reads Way in New Castle were ready and waiting when the flu shot station starting its work.

Playing off the popular Pat Benatar song, External Affairs christened the event #HitMeWithYourFluShot and photographed employees from a variety of departments, posing with flexed arms and bright-green bandages on their biceps where the flu shot is administered. The resulting promotional campaign featured bigger-than-life-size cutouts and screensavers of nurses, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, constables and patient care techs. It also featured caregivers from Admitting, External Affairs, Environmental Services, Information Technology and two senior vice presidents, Chief People Officer Neil Jasani, M.D., MBA, FACEP and Chief Medical Officer, Acute Care, Kert Anzilotti, M.D., MBA.

Marci Drees, M.D., MS, FACP, DTMH, infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist, takes questions from WJBR radio news.

“Using life-size cutouts of caregivers at our entry points served as a daily reminder of the upcoming one-day mass flu vaccination event,” said Tom Desper Jr., associate director of Patient Financial Services and Admitting. “Recognizing a familiar face on the cut-out resonated with our caregivers in Admitting, as it felt as though the caregiver featured in the campaign was right beside your side reminding you to get vaccinated. It created a buzz in the department that encouraged conversation around the campaign, and even our caregivers who were not working during the mass event quickly wanted to figure out how they could get vaccinated.”

The big day arrives

At 4 a.m. on Oct. 11, night-shift workers at both hospitals began arriving at flu stations — located within the Wilmington Hospital Gateway Building and the Ammon Auditorium and the West End Cafe at Christiana Hospital.

By mid-morning, hundreds of staff already had been vaccinated.

During the lunch hour, WJBR-FM broadcast live from Christiana Hospital’s Ammon Auditorium, with the station’s mascot J. Bear greeting workers as they headed to one of the numerous flu stations on site. Dr. Drees and Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming, Ed.D., MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, participated in live interviews with radio host Michael Waite on the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign.

During the lunch hour, WJBR-FM broadcast live from Christiana Hospital’s Ammon Auditorium, with the station’s mascot J. Bear greeting workers as they headed to one of the numerous flu stations on-site. Dr. Drees and Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming, Ed.D., MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, participated in live interviews with radio host Michael Waite to talk about the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign and the importance of flu vaccination.

A jovial atmosphere permeated the event, as staff got vaccinated and occasionally danced while Top 40 music blasted through the auditorium at Christiana Hospital. Employees also dressed up in costumes and posed for pictures in WJBR’s photo booth, and engaged in games to win raffle prizes, prompting one employee to exclaim, “Christiana Care did all this for us?”

At Wilmington Hospital, PAWS for People therapy dogs and the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ mascot Rocky Bluewinkle interacted with caregivers waiting in line.

More than two dozen flu stations were set up at both hospitals, and nearly 300 employees volunteered to administer flu shots.

“It was a wonderful example of how our employees anticipate the needs of others,” Dr. Drees said. “Knowing how busy our caregivers are, one of our biggest concerns in executing this event was the potential for long lines of workers waiting to get their flu shot. But, for the most part, the event went smoothly, the lines were short, and the employees were very supportive of what our organization was trying to accomplish.”

Reaching our caregivers across the community

Meanwhile, four roving teams of vaccinators traveled to Christiana Care locations throughout the region, dropping off vaccination kits so staff at satellite locations could quickly and easily get vaccinated.

The teams, comprised of physicians, nurses and caregivers representing Infection Prevention and Transportation, headed out on the road at 6 a.m.

By the end of the day, they had visited 71 Christiana Care locations in Delaware and its surrounding states, covering a distance of 261 miles.

“Not only were we able to reach multiple areas while balancing logistics and patient care, we also reaped useful lessons for managing emergencies and gained invaluable practices that will better prepare us for real emergencies,” said Erin Meyer, DO, FACP, FAAP, FAWM, SFHM, an internist and pediatric hospitalist, who led one of the roving teams. “We also experienced the camaraderie among caregivers who may work in remote places within Christiana Care’s service area, but who are fully committed to the belief that ‘We Serve Together.’ There was truly a feeling of inclusion that our team observed by participating in this incredible event.”

Tom Short, the practice manager at the Christiana Care Family Medicine at Hockessin Center, said his staff was grateful to feel so closely connected to the campaign.

“The on-site delivery made it very easy for our staff to get vaccinated without compromising our ability to provide care to our Hockessin neighbors,” said Short, whose practice received the vaccination kits on the morning of Oct. 11 by one of the roving teams. “We were encouraged that we could play an influential role in preventing the further spread of flu to the patients we serve because we were getting vaccinated early in the season.”

Campaign gains national attention

The success of the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign also sparked a media bonanza.

  • NBC National News produced two online stories on the campaign, while nearly a dozen TV stations nationwide highlighted the event in their own media markets. Three Philadelphia TV stations — NBC10, 6ABC and CBS3 — broadcasted positive stories during their primetime shows, and the popular Philadelphia online news outlet Philly Voice praised the effort on the morning of the event.
  • The News Journal featured a Facebook Live interview with Dr. Drees and published a front-page story on the #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign the following day. The Facebook Live was viewed nearly 7,000 times, .
  • By the end of the week, the media coverage had reached a potential audience of nearly 24 million people across the country.

And it didn’t stop there. Some caregivers posed for “flu shot selfies” that they posted onto Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag: #HitMeWithYourFluShot, with the  posters of their colleagues in the background.

“This year’s event was more special due to the attention on social media and the exposure to the community,” said Katie Muther, MSN, RN, CCM, a director of Strategic Partnerships at Christiana Care, who posted about the event on Instagram after she got vaccinated at the Ammon Center. “I had quite a few likes, and many of the friends who posted on my wall thanked me for the reminder to them to get their flu shot. The #HitMeWithYourFluShot campaign showed our community that we are committed to serving our neighbors.”

Those photos were shared by hundreds of people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and thousands of people viewed them, spreading far and wide the message of Christiana Care’s commitment to patient safety and to serving together, guided by our values, Excellence and Love.

#HitMeWithYourFluShot by the numbers

  • Flu shots administered between 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.: 7,800
  • Christiana Care employees who volunteered to work at vaccine locations: 296
  • People who won raffle prizes: 51
  • Flu shot stations set up at hospitals: Christiana Hospital: Ammon Center: 10; West End Cafeteria: 7; Wilmington Hospital: 10
  • Participating ambulatory locations: 80
  • Miles traveled by roving vaccination teams travel to administer and drop off flu shots: 261

Photo gallery: #HitMeWithYourFluShot