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Nurse patrols frontline of preventive care


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Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, February 22nd, 2011

Kay Renny, RN, is on the frontlines of the preventive care battlefield. As manager of corporate health services and immunization for the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan, she has spent the last 13 years touting the importance of immunizations as the first line in defensive care.

Renny has developed a vaccination program that has delivered more than 325,000 immunizations, including influenza, pneumonia, and meningitis, at community and corporate sites. She has formed a travel immunization service to provide consultations and vaccines for international travelers, and even provides vaccinations in the home for patients who cannot get out easily.

She was presented with the Immunity Award by the American Nurses Association in January, as part of ANA’s Bringing Immunity to Every Community project. ANA has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to maximize nurses’ roles in boosting vaccination rates and reducing vaccine-preventable diseases. The project positions nurses as the leading advocates for immunization in the general population and among healthcare peers. It also encourages all nurses to be vaccinated.

To promote vaccination, Renny has gotten creative. Young people heading to college are notoriously ambivalent about their healthcare and it can be tricky to ensure they receive the CDC’s recommended meningitis vaccine before their new life in their dorms.

So Renny initiated “shot parties” to immunize college-bound kids in their home. A parent gets a group of friends together and Renny organizes a clinic in the parent’s house to vaccinate all the students at the same time.

Renny has taken vaccination clinics to movie theatres, the Detroit Zoo, and major league baseball stadiums. She spends time bringing health screening and vaccination clinics to worksites. She also offers screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat, etc.

“It’s all about getting people to start thinking about where they are and what their numbers are and what they can do to either improve their numbers so that they are within normal range, or what they can do to keep themselves in those ranges,” she says. “It’s about educating about behaviors that can prevent future problems.”

Renny has to educate people every day, particularly to counter fear and distrust about vaccinations. She says that Americans no longer see the diseases such as polio that used to scare people. “But it’s a global world and every disease is one plane trip away,” she says. “As nurses, we get to educate people and help them see the value of that prevention. Vaccinations are one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves as a preventative measure.”

“When I decided to become a nurse, people said to me, ‘why don’t you go to medical school?’” she says. “I said because as a nurse I get to care for you, I get to help you care for yourself. Physicians do that as well, but they have to focus on taking care of the immediate need. As nurses, we have that opportunity to help people care for themselves and that’s not just with the issue at hand, but helping them take care of themselves so they don’t have issues in the future.”