The flu jab comes of age!

November 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I’ve been noticing a few improvements around the whole flu jab situation this year. In the previous few years I have a) struggled to book in for one because the surgery receptionists didn’t know about immunosuppression b) been disgusted at the ‘cattle market’ approach to the flu clinic, which I thought was restricted to our rural Norfolk surgery, but then found, via Helen at Pens and Needles extended to Canada too!

Here’s the way it used to work: You fight to get into the clinic in the first place, get your slot (which if I remember rightly was ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’) and then turn up to join the queue extending all around the waiting room and out the door. You are told to be ready and waiting with your arm exposed ready for jabbing, even though the surgery is freezing because the door is permanently open due to people standing in the entry waiting for flu jabs. The receptionists ask why you were there if you looked under 70, and are puzzled when you tell them … but let you through anyway.  You have now been singled out in front of hundreds of somewhat elderly people who are now all staring at you and wondering if you’re trying to con the system, so you feel great! You get to the far side of the waiting room eventually and are asked to ‘fill in this form’. The form has nothing to do with the flu jab but asks if you smoke and would like anti-smoking advice. (Apparently doing this meant they could tick a box somewhere and claim extra funding for ‘offering anti-smoking advice!) You get through to a corridor where all the doors of the rooms are open and wander about until someone says ‘in here’. You go in, and with the door still open and other bewildered patients pottering about in the corridor behind you, you’re asked, ‘Why are you having the flu jab?’ You tell them … again. They say, ‘OK’ and jab you, and then follow that up with something like, ‘Oh – hope you aren’t allergic to egg or pregnant – should have asked you first.’ Fortunately I was neither!

Here’s how it is now: You phone up and say you need a flu injection. The receptionist says fine, she’ll book you in. She goes to your record, sees you’re not elderly and says, ‘Why?’ You say, ‘Immunosuppressed.’ She says, ‘That’s fine,’ and books you in. To your astonishment you’re given an actual time, 3:10, not ‘afternoon’. Then later on in the week you find out that some of your friends have already had their jabs at the surgery and they’re doing it like a proper clinic – called up individually, closed doors, proper checking that it’s OK to give you one etc. Wow – you’re impressed!

You go for your regular methotrexate blood test and notice a big poster in the surgery window about, of all things, getting the flu jab if you are immunosuppressed! After a general rheumatology chat, taking bloods and general chitchat the nurse says, ‘Have you had your flu jab yet?’ ‘No,’ you say, ‘ but it’s booked in for next week.’ ‘Would you like it today?’ she says. After picking yourself up off the floor, rubbing your ears and asking her if she could please repeat herself because you thought she’d just offered you the flu jab today, and finding that in fact that is what she said, you say, ‘Yes please.’ After she’s sucked the appropriate amount of blood she goes and gets the flu injection. ‘I don’t know if I can roll this shirt up far enough’ you say. ‘ I wasn’t prepared for this.’ ‘That’s OK,’ says the nurse with a grin, ‘We can do it through the shirt. On second thoughts better not, the needles are so flimsy we’re having trouble just getting them through the skin!’

Aha – you think – I’m back in the land of normality now! Damn, I was enjoying this strange fantasy world where the surgery actually seems to be doing flu jabs in a sensible and logical manner.

But then you find you can roll up your shirt and in fact the needle goes in fine, if somewhat painfully!

‘Right,’ you say, ‘I suppose I’d better go and cancel my appointment for next week at the front desk.’ The nurse smiles and says breezily, ‘Oh no need – with this new database system we’ve got I can do it really easily from here,’ and she does!

Now you might think surely that wasn’t actually that much to ask – you might say, as ‘brother Penguin’ did some time ago, that your surgery has been doing this for years, but when you’ve become conditioned to being in the cattle market scenario for so many years, this just seems incredible, fantastic, too good to be true …but it’s not. It really happened.

Wooohoooooo!

Incredibly the nurse told me that some patients had actually complained ‘We wanted to come to the big flu clinic like last year!’ There’s no pleasing some people!

4 Comments »

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  1. i’m so very happy for you and at the same time very humbled to realize that here in the USA, things like that are the “norm” for me… yes, we pay a big price for health care and are just coming up on our “medicare years”, but we are lucky to have it and lucky as well that we’ve managed to save some money to be able to pay for it…

    I really enjoy your stories and look forward to them… i’m told by my RA doc that a lot of my pain and stiffness is NOT my RA, but the regular osteo and arthritis that we oldsters get… oh well,,, just get up a bit slower!!!!! :)

  2. Hi BJ, yep – private healthcare definitely has its benefits … so long as you can afford it! Over here we have some private insurance for healthcare, but it wouldn’t cover things like flu jabs anyway.

    As to pain not being RA, I find that’s one of the hardest things to sort out with RA – whether or not to blame it for whatever the heck the problem is THIS week. :-)

  3. Sounds like a dream come true, Penguin! I feel very lucky, as I get my medical care through the US Veteran’s Administration–and getting the flu shot has been SO easy these last several years. During the flu season they have daily, walk-in flu shot clinics at the main hospital, which is where I go for labs and doc appointments. With electronic medical records, there’s no need for paperwork. The nurses who give the injections have been, without exception, professional, friendly, smiling and quick, and I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes. It makes getting that annual flu jab a breeze.

    Love the post. You made me smile. ;)

  4. Hi Wren,

    Glad I made you smile – I enjoyed writing that one too. :-)

    Glad yours has been nice and straightforward. We do have electronic records, but in the cattle market situation you’d already booked in a week or so before and then they just crossed your name of a huge list when you walked in. Our nurses were certainly always quick, a little too quick in some cases … but professional, friendly and smiling? Well, as each one probably saw 200 people in a day I suppose I can see why the smiles had vanished by the time I arrived for an afternoon appointment. :-)


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