“It is such a small thing to do but it can help protect the people who rely on us to care for them.” – That was the simple message about the flu vaccine from Deborah Fitzgerald, who works in two community homes in rural Donegal.
Deborah is the flu champion for St Anne’s House and St Martin’s House in Falcarragh where 100% of staff opted to get the vaccine last season / during the 2019/2020 influenza season to protect themselves and others, earning them a national award.
“It is a small remote area and everyone knows everyone. Some of the staff have been working here for 15 or 16 years so the residents here in the unit are just like our family at this stage. We are doing this to protect them the same way we protect our families back at home,” Deborah said, ahead of the HSE winter flu campaign.
There are eight residents across the two houses, with St Anne’s opening just last December. Many have very complex health needs and their carers do everything they can to protect these vulnerable residents, including getting the vaccine each year.
Deborah said she put up posters about the flu vaccine around the houses and checked up with staff reminding them about but she said she was basically pushing an open door.
“The staff were just fantastic. It was their vigilance and excellence of care that got us a full uptake of the vaccine. Everyone knew what they had to do and the importance of doing it to protect our residents. Some would be very vulnerable to respiratory tract infections so it’s vital that we keep them safe and well,” she said.
Deborah said staff were determined to keep up the momentum.
“We will have a peer flu fighter on site permanently from now on as one of the staff nurses has completed the training. Everyone has a great, positive attitude towards the vaccine,” she said.
“It’s actually the first year that I have actually surveyed the staff about the vaccine but I would imagine that there was practically 100% uptake every year. Maybe we could have been winning the award every year!”