Injecting a little humour into flu

Jo Reynard Flu Blog

Jo Reynard is a senior programme infection prevention and control (IPC) nurse at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, which achieved the highest uptake (76.9 per cent) for a community trust. She is well known for her overwhelming energy and dedication to the flu campaign as well as her creative mind. For the 2016/17 season, Jo and the team ‘injected’ a little humour and novelty into their campaign with the use of Frankie and Flo, the trust's mascots for flu. 

A few weeks into the campaign I was driving home from work considering what we could do to add some spark into the campaign, during Infection Prevention week (#jabathon day): the flu fighters pictures resonated in my mind and I wondered if the flu fighter team at NHS Employers had mascot costumes. Christian from flu fighter HQ received a call from me the following day to ask if there was such a thing as a big flu mascot costume, he was able to confirm there wasn’t. 

When I got home that day, I decided to create Frankie and Flo. In true Blue Peter style, I made them with my two children using two large balloons, paper mache, paint, pom-poms, pipe cleaners and two onesies. To show our progress and create some excitement day by day we posted tweets on Twitter.

The realisation of our mascots created some apprehension on behalf of my manager (he calls it a controlled risk) on the choice of event to launch them at, which ended up being the trust's medical conference. Passion and ownership from the team prompted delight and a previously unseen zest from some of our medical colleagues with the IPC team.

The trust's own jabathon day was a success, and this was revisited during the NHS Employer's #jabathon week, where we visited a variety of teams with roving immunisers as well as Flo and Frankie to help encourage more people to get immunised. The characters were a great addition as they added: fun, focus, and a ‘face’ to the campaign. They made people smile – about serious stuff – and made receiving a flu vaccination less scary. People really engaged and paused to have a conversation in person and on social media. We also made people feel like they were part of something bigger than a statistic. 

This year our campaign really helped to change the hearts and minds of staff across the trust by using our characters, electronic tools, the IPC Twitter account, and offering staff the opportunity to have conversations to discuss fears and concerns. 

The campaign was hard work, a lot of staff came to the flu clinics, the team went to lots of team meetings and training to increase accessibility, but the team worked together, shared the foot fall and achieved the highest uptake figure for staff vaccinated in a community trust.

My advice to anyone who is thinking about developing a flu mascot would be, do it! It will:

  • Enhance your team morale
  • Open staff communication
  • Get your team noticed
  • Create a team/ campaign brand
What next? Well, Flo and Frankie will be part of the 2017/18 flu campaign, and we continue to look for ways that we can promote flu vaccines to all our staff so that we can protect our patients and families.

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