Demonstration of the Feasibility of Emergency Department Immunization Against Influenza and Pneumococcus

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Abstract

Study objective:

To demonstrate the feasibility of systematic immunization against influenza and pneumococcus in a public emergency department.

Methods:

This was a demonstration project conducted from October 21, 1996, through December 2, 1996, at Cook County Hospital, an inner-city hospital with a 1996 adult ED census of 120,449. Seventy-eight percent of patients are uninsured; 92% are people of color; 73% deny having a primary physician. Only 15% have emergency complaints. Nurses received standing orders that all nonemergency adult patients meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for high risk should be offered immunization against influenza and pneumococcus at triage. Cash prizes were offered to nurses appropriately immunizing the most patients. The date of immunization was entered into the computerized patient registration system, available to all providers within the county system. From November 4 through November 18, an extra nurse was assigned to triage to test for improvement in immunization rates. A time-motion study determined the time required per immunization on the basis of a convenience sample of 8 nurses drawn from all 3 shifts.

Results:

Only 3% of identified high-risk patients reported previous pneumococcal immunization. Despite extreme variation in nurse performance, 2,631 patients (24% of patients triaged) were screened, and 716 high-risk patients were identified (27% of patients screened). A total of 1234 patients were immunized against influenza, and 241 patients were appropriately immunized against pneumococcus. Sixty-one percent of high-risk patients with no contraindication to influenza immunization were immunized against influenza. Thirty-five percent of high-risk patients not previously immunized against pneumococcus were immunized against pneumococcus. Immunizations per shift per triage nurse varied from 0 to 24. Median time for all activities related to immunization was 4 minutes (range, 2 to 10 minutes). There was no increase in immunization rates with the addition of an extra nurse at triage (95% confidence interval for odds ratio, .929 to 1.153).

Conclusion:

Systematic immunization against influenza and pneumococcus is both needed and feasible in a public ED. "Buy-in" by nurses is variable. Increased staffing alone does not improve immunization rates.

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