Shifting Administration of Vaccines to Nurses Improves Outcomes

Nov 29, 2012, 12:00 PM

Patients are more likely to get influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations when the responsibility for immunization administration is shifted to non-physician health care professionals, especially nurses, according to a systematic review published in the Annals of Family Medicine. Quality improvement interventions that use this “team change” strategy were associated with a 44 percent increase in influenza vaccination rates, and more than doubled the likelihood of a patient getting a pneumococcal vaccination.

The authors found that team changes were most effective when a nurse assumed responsibility for administering vaccinations. “Interventions in which nurses or pharmacists assessed patients and reminded physicians, but did not themselves administer vaccinations, were ineffective,” the study says. “…Configuring additional personnel so that they are able [to] relieve physicians of vaccinations seems important to successful team change.”

A family physician often has more immediate concerns to address when a patient comes in for a check-up, co-author Jeffrey Johnson, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, told Reuters. “But for a nurse in the primary care setting, [vaccinations and other preventive care] might be the first thing they’re responsible for,” he said. “The evidence, we think, clearly shows that shifting the responsibility and the ability to the non-physician personnel... That works.”

The review and analysis also finds that personal outreach to patients is an effective strategy for raising immunization rates.

Read the study.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.