Flu Shot for Health Care Workers Means Safer Patients

By: Allison Hydzik

UPMC has seen a double-digit increase in the number of health care workers receiving the flu shot this season – a finding that’s not just good news for the health system, but also for patients.

So far this flu season, 11.1 percent more UPMC employees have received the flu vaccine compared to the 2011-2012 season, with 39,027 employees vaccinated as of this week.

“This is encouraging,” says Bill Smith, senior director of emergency preparedness for UPMC. “We know that a higher vaccination level among health care workers leads to improved safety for hospital patients, less likelihood of an influenza outbreak  and a reduction in serious illness and death at our long-term care facilities.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all U.S. health care workers get vaccinated annually against influenza. This includes anyone who may come in contact with patients, from physicians and nurses to hospital clergy and maintenance workers.

According to David Nace, M.D., chief of medical affairs for UPMC’s Senior Communities, statistics show that one out of five health care workers get the flu every season and about half of those people don’t even realize they have it.

“That’s why getting the flu shot is so important for everyone, but particularly health care workers,” says Dr. Nace. “If you happen to have a mild case of the flu, not realize it and come to work, you could spread it to patients who are far more vulnerable and for whom contracting the flu could be deadly. By getting the flu shot, you greatly reduce the likelihood of such a scenario.”

UPMC offers the flu shot to all its employees free of charge at employee health centers and offers incentives, such as gift cards, to staff who receive the shot. If an employee gets the flu shot at another facility, UPMC will reimburse the employee.

The health system continues to have a plentiful supply of flu vaccine for the general public at its physician offices and Urgent Care Centers. The CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age get the flu shot every year.

“It’s not too late,” says Tami Minnier, chief quality officer for UPMC. “We are still in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons in a decade. Getting the flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family.”