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AOHP conference highlights EHP experiences
Christine Pionk, MS, RN, CS, solved an age-old employee health problem with a high-tech tool. She sends e-mail to communicate directly with employees and remind them of their annual tuberculosis screening. It’s a simple change, but one that has made a big difference. TB screening rates at the University of Michigan (UM) Health Systems in Ann Arbor have risen from about 60% to more than 80%.
"For years we’ve been trying to figure out how to increase our compliance rate with TB screening," says Pionk, a nurse practitioner in employee health at UM. Pionk is one of several employee health professionals who shared "success stories" at the conference of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Health Care (AOHP) held Oct. 16-19 in St. Louis.
The "success stories" offered a way for employee health professionals (EHP) to share in the educational program of the conference, says Beverly Smith, RN, COHN, employee health nurse manager at Hamot Medical Center in Erie, PA, and region four director and conference chair for AOHP. The personal experiences also fit into the conference theme of "Unlock the Gates to Success."
A new perspective
While AOHP hosted leading experts in the fields of ergonomics, regulatory compliance, and bioterrorism preparedness, the "success stories" offer a new perspective, Smith says. "It’s nice to hear about how people actually made some things work for them," she says. "After hearing the theory [in conference sessions], sometimes you wonder, how can I put that into practice?’"
TB compliance is a common concern. Pionk typically sent paper reminders about TB screening to supervisors, who would then alert their staff. But the chain of communication didn’t always work well and employees often failed to follow up.
Now, e-mail allows for swift notification. Even physicians are on the e-mail system. The employee health department also streamlined the process of screening follow-up. Employees can access a TB skin-test form on the health system’s web site and bring it to the screening. Physicians and nurses in the units can read the test within 48 to 72 hours, and the employees fax the documented form back to employee health.
"If there’s any question, they contact us and we look at it," says Pionk. Concerns about confidentiality limit some other uses of e-mail, but she says she uses it to remind employees about influenza vaccination and post-exposure follow-up testing.