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We’ve Got Our Children Covered”

 By: Kathy Anderson, RN, BSN, PHN

 Fergus County Health Nurse

 Fergus County Nurses Office

 Lewistown, Montana

Anyone working in the public health arena knows what a challenge it is to keep our young clients current on their vaccinations. Parents will forget appointments; reschedule immunizations or just plain “not show up.” This is extremely frustrating for staff who are earnestly trying to keep their immunization rates up and stay that way.

After the retirement of our previous director we worked with two staff members for several months. Needless to say, we were barely keeping our heads above water let alone taking on other projects. Marlo Thomas, formerly the Administrative Assistant, and I worked diligently setting up appointments for clients and calling to remind them of their immunization times only to feel like we were slipping further behind with our rates. Of course, this was during every public health department’s busiest time...FLU SEASON!!

As luck would have it we were finally able to hire an office manager and relief nurse to join our team in early spring. Enter Rachelle Sharp, new Office Manager, and Sami Routzahn, RN. We are definitely blessed to have both women working for us. Marlo Thomas is our Interim Department Head at this time.

A couple of months ago we put all of our heads together and developed a plan to get our immunization rates up. Have you heard of the proverbial “dog with a bone.?” This would describe Rachelle perfectly. Rachelle designed and ordered reminder cards that are sent out daily to parents through our own “tickler reminder system.” Rachelle will schedule the appointments if parents call in and then she will also remind them by phone. If they miss the appointment she is on the phone pretty much daily reminding them that their child needs specific immunizations. Sometimes clients will just show up and we will take care of them right then and now. Having a relief nurse has been extremely helpful. Our office is covered most of the time now with a nurse on duty. Thanks, Sami! Marlo has done an excellent job as our department head and we hope she will stay our boss!!

We are very happy to report our overall immunization rate that was 78% two months ago is now at 86%!! DTap is at 88%, Hep B is 96%, Hib is 99%, MMR is 100%, Prevnar-13 is 96%, and Polio is 97% as is Varicella!!

We will continue to strive for excellence and make these rates go higher and higher. Thanks ladies for your help, time, commitment and attention to this very important detail. Keeping our youth healthy is the noblest task we can accomplish. Our young people are our future and the future of the great state of Montana!

We hope everyone has a great summer.

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