If you've read the news today, you may have gotten the impression that the slow lines are caused by a lack of nurses or maybe pesky flu shot receivers who ask too many questions. After my first-hand experience getting the H1N1 flu shot at Tom Brown Arena yesterday, I think that while more nurses will certainly help, the real culprit is a total lack of organizational planning and/or ability.
They did improve how they worked as they went along yesterday (getting people to pull numbers, allowing them to fill out the form in advance) and it sounds like they have made some improvements since yesterday (Tom Brown arena has a shelter setup and they've hired more nurses), but the speed through the line could be further increased with some simple improvements. I wonder how many people got sick from all the standing around in the cold!
1) Publish the information printed on the back of the form on the City of Ottawa website. Better yet, get people to download the form and fill it out at home before they come. That would also give the city an idea of how many people to expect. Updated: the City is doing this now! Download the form here http://ottawa.ca/residents/health/conditions/swine_influenza/h1n1_consent_en.pdf
2) Put the complete list of questions the nurses ask on the form so that people are ready for them. The list should be consistent. We weren't sure whether they were asking the same question in different words because they were trying to trick us or because they were disorganized... A number of people commented that they were taken aback by being asked whether they were allergic to formaldehyde, not ever having thought about the question before.
3) If people have to wait outside in the cold, bump the obviously "medically fragile" to the front of the line.
4) Have a nurse available to field general questions, so that the nurse giving the shot can focus on doing just that.
5) Increase the number of staff registering names. I observed numerous nurses waiting around with their hands in the air.
6) Once people are registered, have them remove their sweaters and be ready for the shot before their name is called.
7) Have a nurse available in the registered waiting area to run the questions by the people waiting, so that the nurse giving the shot either doesn't have to ask any questions.
8) If the program in use has a search function, the nurses need training on how to use it, as it would be more efficient than having nurses look for a name on the screen. Ideally, the nurses should be given patients in order so that they aren't having to search or hunt at all though!