By Shawn Kennedy, editorial director
Last week, I got away from my desk, computer, and stacks of paper and (briefly) became a “real nurse” again. As a member of my county’s Medical Reserve Corps, I volunteered to help administer H1N1 flu vaccine at a local school. Our vaccinees were children over two years and young adults up to 24. We were distributing FluMist, a live attenuated vaccine administered intranasally (see the article on FluMist in the October AJN). The applicator looks like just like a syringe, but without a needle.
I was impressed with how organized the process was. Employees of the health department were there controlling traffic, fetching supplies, inputting data, interviewing new arrivals and helping them complete forms. A physician was on hand to screen individuals if there were any questions about whether someone should receive the vaccine.
I was one of 20 RNs, most of whom worked as county public health nurses. We had a brief reminder of the vaccine administration procedure (we had received instructions and a link to a video demonstration about administering the vaccine the prior week), and then were sent to our stations at tables in the large gymnasium. There was a light-hearted and almost casual atmosphere—the key to it, I think, was that there were no needles involved. Such looks of relief when I took the rubber tip off the applicator!
I had just one solitary young man come to my table. He looked embarrassed and a little nervous, judging from his leg twitching up and down. Mostly it was groups: a parent with two children, two parents with one child. There was one father with six children all under the age of 12! The reactions and questions were as varied as the people: trendy adolescents who kept their cool while a nasal applicator was inserted into a nostril; giggly little girls who were so ticklish that I could hardly get near their noses with the applicator; adorable three-year-olds who didn’t care what I did as long as they got a sticker. There was one very serious 16-year-old boy who wanted to know “how it worked.” I gave him the science behind the vaccine. He then said he only meant where was I going to put the applicator. My bad.
It was a good reminder to me of what I enjoyed the most about being a nurse—using knowledge and skill to help people; knowing that what I was doing was valuable and made a difference. It was nice to feel that again.