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Small, Rural Facility and Staff Deliver Big Vaccination Results

Hampton Regional  Medical Center is a small hospital located in a rural area where a third of the population has no broadband Internet service. Many people in the community served by the hospital aren’t computer literate, and some can’t even read and write. That’s quite a challenge for a massive vaccination campaign that relies heavily on online systems to promote vaccine availability, make appointments and account for dosages. A small but creative team is making it work by keeping things simple.

“We saw the option to set up in VAMS or become a 3rd party clinic,” said Melanie Wooten, quality assurance nurse. “Only 68% of our population has broadband Internet service, and we knew they wouldn’t be able to handle VAMS.”

So they established an email address that goes to a central account monitored by Wooten and Kim Sullivan, infection control and employee health nurse, who books the actual appointments. It’s a simple system that asks for name, why they are eligible and contact information. “If they give us an email address, we know they are somewhat tech-savvy, so we email the appointment information to them,” Wooten said. “If they leave a phone number, we know we need to call them back. Using a 3rd party system creates more paperwork, but it keeps people from falling through the cracks.”

Sullivan said that despite computer access issues, they’ve had success using social media to promote events. “Even people without computers usually have a smartphone with access to Facebook and email. We also rely on word of mouth and have had several grassroots efforts to get the word out.” They have contacted churches and community organizations to reach out to their members, and they ask people to assist family members and neighbors who are eligible for vaccination but may not be able to sign up by themselves. “We’re not reaching everyone, but we’re getting a lot of help from the community.”

Keeping it simple is their mantra. Vaccination clinics have four stations: a check-in station to confirm appointments and paperwork, a vaccination station, a check-out station for collecting VAMS information and making second-dose appointments if needed, and a monitoring station for the 15-minute, monitored wait. It’s a pen and paper process with staff on hand to assist people who can’t read.

“Everything’s basic and simple,” Wooten said. “We use a sticky note system. We write the time of injection and ask people to take the sticky note to the next station so they’ll know how long to monitor them.”

Hampton Regional gave 72 vaccinations in December, 800 in January and 1,500 in February. Those are big numbers for a small staff, so Hampton has partnered with local EMS to provide clinical support and the National Guard to help with logistics such as setting up tables and chairs, sanitizing pens and handling clerical duties. “(Vaccination) takes a lot more than giving shots, and we don’t have the manpower,” Wooten said. “Without that community support, we wouldn’t be making it.”