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Pulling together for the community: staging public vaccination clinics

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It takes more than a village to stage a large Vaccination Clinic—it takes a high-functioning, coordinated team of hundreds. The required daily staffing level for Augusta Health’s Vaccination Clinics is 50 to 60 people each day. It’s an astounding number—especially when realizing that the Clinics usually run five days each week, and will continue for months into the future. Some days, both first dose and second dose Clinics are running simultaneously. It’s an even more astounding number of staff when realizing that everyone working the clinics has another “day job” with duties and responsibilities to fill. While undeniably stressful to work two jobs at once, the Clinic workers are united in a desire to help the community continue on the path to health and ‘normalcy’—controlling the COVID-19 virus through community vaccination.

Augusta Health’s Vaccination Clinics are not independently operated episodes focused on Augusta Health patients—they are a partnership with the Central Shenandoah Health District (CSHD) to vaccinate the community as a whole. As the lead agency, CSHD provides the overall coordination of the project—including the waiting list of community members to be vaccinated—and general direction for who should be vaccinated—such as community members over the age of 65. Through their parent, the Virginia Department of Health, they procure the vaccine and provide scheduling software. Augusta Health provides the facility, support staff and other supplies necessary to make its Vaccination Clinic operate each day. While some of the staff are volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, most are Augusta Health employees who are partially or fully redeploying to Clinic Roles.

“Running the Vaccination Clinic takes a large number of people,” says Krystal Moyers, Director of Community Outreach at Augusta Health who coordinates the staff for the Clinics. “Of course, we need Pharmacists and Pharmacy Techs to draw the vaccine and we need licensed professionals to do the vaccination. On top of those positions, though, we need registration and check-in staff, expediters, patient escorts, schedulers and check-out personnel. We also use security and others for traffic control and could not function without environmental services staff. We also have those who work on the phones to schedule those who CSHD indicates do not have email or internet access—and to reschedule appointments when we need to move a clinic because of bad weather. The team we use is a machine. It really is; it’s a well-oiled machine.”

When employees learned that Augusta Health would be conducting Vaccination Clinics, on campus for CSHD, the positive response to help was immediate. “The response from our employees was instantaneous and tremendous,” adds Moyers, “and I was blown away, in a good way. Team members were reaching out immediately to let me know when they would be available. I know many of them were already tired from testing and taking care of those sick with COVID, but they were still willing to step up to keep fighting the good fight.”

“I am so thankful for the willingness of so many on our Augusta Health team to help make these Vaccination Clinics a priority for our community,” she says, “and to be a positive part of the long-term solution.”

Each of the employees working in the Clinics has a real desire to help the community, but each also has a unique story on why they’ve been moved to help. Of the hundreds of stories to tell, a few are featured here:

JOE SURRATT, NP

Joe Surratt at Vaccine Clinic
Joe Surratt

Joe Surratt, NP, works at Augusta Health Gastroenterology. He spends most of his time providing inpatient consults on GI illnesses. He also works in the GI Clinic. At the Vaccination Clinic, he is a vaccinator. He generally works at the Clinic on Fridays—giving up his usual day off—and often helps out on other days in the afternoon.

“Last year, when the hospital was redesigned to accommodate COVID-19 patients, I was reassigned to Infectious Disease because I was needed there,” says Surratt. “I spent a lot of time working in the Respiratory Care Unit with the COVID patients and staff. It was a very intense experience to take care of people who were so desperately ill. I later returned to my GI position, but could not forget the experience of working in the RCU with COVID patients.”

“Then the vaccine arrived. Helping out in the Vaccination Clinics is so very meaningful to me,” he adds, “because it is an opportunity to prevent the extreme sickness and the dying. It’s a moment in history. It’s an opportunity to do something to stop the disease. If there’s something any of us can do to help improve the situation, it’s now. It’s not the time to say, ‘I don’t want to help’—it’s the time to pitch in and care for others in the community.”

“Working at the Vaccination Clinics is a great experience,” says Surratt. “First, it’s just so impressive to see the whole system operate. The way to flow has been set up, with the coordination and social distancing, it’s just wonderful. I’ve also had the chance to work with and get to know colleagues I would have never known before. And finally, the community and the patients have been so grateful and excited to receive their vaccinations. I think the more people that get the vaccine, the more the misinformation will be disproved. The community members have been so positive and so patient, that also has been impressive.”

“So if there’s been anything at all positive that’s come from this pandemic,” he concludes, “it’s these Vaccination Clinics. We’re coming together to end the pandemic.”

CARRIE GIBBONS

Carrie Gibbons at vaccine clinic
Carrie Gibbons

Carrie Gibbons works as a Volunteer Coordinator at Augusta Health’s Hospice of the Shenandoah. Now, she’s a bit of a volunteer herself as she helps out in the Vaccination Clinics. She’s worked in Registration and in Scheduling.

“After people get their shot, we are required to observe them for 15 minutes and watch for any reaction,” explains Gibbons. “In the ‘first dose’ clinics, we use the 15 minutes very productively. We walk around with iPads or computers and schedule the patients for their second doses. We pre-register their information and give them a specific day and time for their second dose. It’s reassuring to them because they know exactly when they’ll have their second dose before they leave from their first dose appointment. It helps us, too, because we know exactly what resources we need to know to schedule that second dose clinic three weeks later.”

“I was first redeployed this summer. I was a ‘door screener’ at the hospital entrances—taking temperatures and asking the COVID questions. I really enjoyed helping out that way. So helping at the Vaccination Clinics is a way to continue to help out wherever I’m needed,” adds Gibbons. “I really appreciate that I was never furloughed or laid off during the pandemic. I know employees at other hospitals were. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to keep helping the community.”

“The Vaccination Clinics have been a good experience,” she says. “It’s extremely busy and it seems I never stop. It’s fast-paced, but everyone is happy to be there. People are appreciative, and understand the wait. It’s just a great atmosphere to work in.”

CHAD REED

Chad Reed at vaccine clinic
Chad Reed

Chad Reed is a Tennis Pro at Augusta Health Fitness, so his day-to-day work life has definitely been impacted by the Vaccination Clinics. The Clinics have been built on two of the indoor tennis courts. So he still spends his days on the tennis courts, but usually doing something other than coaching tennis.

“We’re down to one indoor court, and the outdoor courts don’t open until May, so it is different,” says Reed. “It’s very cool, though, that the courts are being used in this manner. While we are trying to keep tennis going on the remaining court, we all understand that what’s taking place on the two ‘down’ courts is working to keep the community going. It’s working towards a return to normal.”

Reed has been a jack of all trades around the Vaccination Clinic. “At first I helped with the physical set-up of the Clinic. We had to remove all the nets and tennis equipment. I’ve worked in Registration a lot, and out in the parking lot as traffic control. I’ve also worked in Check-Out, and escorting those who need help with transport or wheelchairs,” says Reed.

“It’s been amazing to help out and the Vaccination Clinic is a neat thing to watch,” he adds. “I think one of my favorite places to work has been the parking lot because you see the same people when they are going in and then again when they’re coming out. They are usually anxious when headed in, and just grateful and relieved when coming out.”

“The Vaccination Clinic is important. We’re getting shots in arms. It’s monumental and it’s a cool thing that’s happening,” Reed says. “You can feel it in the atmosphere when you’re here. We are doing the very best we can and we’re getting better every day. We are ready to move even faster when we have more vaccine.”

KELSEY SIMS

Kelsey Sims at vaccine clinic
Kelsey Sims

Kelsey Sims is the Administrative Assistant in the Construction Department, so helping to physically set up the clinic and keep it going has been part of her ‘day job’. She helped with much of the behind the scenes work with contractors for panels and flooring and the layout of the space before it could open and function. She also assisted when the Clinic doubled its size. In addition to that work, though, she’s regularly worked at the Clinic in various roles.

“I help with anything they need,” she says. “I usually start my day at the Clinic, just to be sure they have everything they need to run smoothly that day. I also work about two or three days a week in a more defined role such as helping with Check-out or expediting. I enjoy when people are checking out and comment on how well-organized the setup is—because I had something to do with that set-up. I really appreciate that.”

Volunteering at the Vaccination Clinic has special meaning to Sims. “It’s a full circle moment. My whole family tested positive, and some of my family members were very sick. After going through that as a family, it’s very rewarding to help prevent others from experiencing what we went through. So working at the Vaccination Clinic has become a family affair for us. I help out. My sister works in the Call Center. My mother is a clinic nurse. We are working as a family to make a contribution to other families—to provide a way to return to normalcy with their loved ones,” she explains.

“A lot of people have put a lot of work into the Vaccination Clinic to make it a seamless experience. Every day, we learn another way to improve what we’re doing so we can improve the number of people being vaccinated. I don’t want people to be deterred by the process. I want them to be encouraged to get the vaccine when it’s their turn. And we will get through it all,” add Sims.

“This has been an overwhelming experience in many ways,” she says, “but everyone here agrees there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing. We all want to be a part of this. We all want us all to get back to normal.”

Augusta Health and its employees sincerely appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Central Shenandoah Health District to vaccinate the community. It takes a large staff every day to make the Clinic successful. Those who would like more information about volunteering in the Vaccination Clinic should email covidstaffing [at] augustahealth.com.