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SEATTLE - (Aug. 11, 2010) - In 2005, Virginia Mason Medical Center made medical history when it implemented the country's first mandatory influenza immunization program for everyone working at the Seattle medical center, including health care workers, non-direct patient care staff and even practicing physicians not directly employed by Virginia Mason. It was the first medical center to require an influenza vaccination as a condition of employment.

Now Virginia Mason's five-year experience and its success as an innovator and U.S. health care leader in protecting patients from the flu is chronicled in the September issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The original article titled, "Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers: A 5-Year Study," details the organization's journey implementing a mandatory influenza vaccination program, including how the medical center set out to communicate with staff, how it responded to nursing union challenges and the results it achieved moving staff vaccination rates from about 54 percent to nearly 100 percent.

"We are certain this is the right thing to do to protect our patients, and we're proud to be a national leader for this important public health issue," said Joyce Lammert, MD, chief of medicine and physician leader for the influenza immunization program at Virginia Mason. "Medical centers throughout the country have asked us how we did it. We hope this article will provide both instruction and encouragement to others who want to protect patients and staff from this potentially deadly virus."

"This forthright and novel decision by VMMC leaders and vaccination program champions to emphatically emphasize the importance of influenza vaccination of health care workers has opened the door to a new approach to increasing patient safety as well as health care worker protection," said Thomas R. Talbot, MD, and William Schaffner, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in a companion commentary titled "On Being the First: Virginia Mason Medical Center and Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers" in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology's September issue.

About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a non-profit comprehensive regional health care system in Seattle that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 440 physicians with a 336-bed acute-care hospital. Virginia Mason operates a network of clinics throughout the Puget Sound area; manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and Chronic Care Management program for people living with HIV and AIDS; and operates Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, internationally recognized in autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason is known for applying manufacturing principles to health care to improve quality and patient safety. For more information, visit VirginiaMason.org or Facebook/VMcares or follow @VirginiaMason on Twitter.

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