Nursing students promote importance of flu vaccine to THON community

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Getting the flu is never a fun experience for anyone. But for cancer patients, it can be devastating — even fatal. That’s the message two School of Nursing students are working to convey to the many THON volunteers who may be in contact with pediatric cancer patients this fall and winter.

As infection control interns at University Health Services (UHS) this fall, Kate Malboeuf and Olivia Rudi have undertaken an important project: a flu awareness and prevention campaign geared to the THON community. To spread their message, Malboeuf and Rudi produced a video that can be viewed on YouTube and is being made available to THON committees and organizations.

In addition to spreading information about flu risks, symptoms and prevention, Malboeuf and Rudi are urging all THON volunteers — especially those who will be attending the event itself — to get the flu vaccine before THON weekend (Feb. 15 to 17).

“Flu vaccination and awareness for the THON community was one of our goals for our internship,” said Rudi, who serves as THON chairwoman for the Penn State chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania. “Being involved in THON ourselves and being nursing students, we understand the importance of vaccinating people who are going to be in direct contact with these children.”

“These children have compromised immune systems,” added Malboeuf, who is THON chairwoman for Delta Gamma sorority. “Cancer patients are more likely to have serious problems if they get the flu; they may end up in the hospital or even die.

“THON weekend creates a perfect environment for a virus to spread, with thousands of people within close proximity of one another. The effects of the flu on the THON community could be devastating.”

Flu vaccinations are available at UHS for all Penn State students covered by Penn State’s student health insurance plan. Students who receive the vaccine through one of the following clinics will be charged $13 to their student accounts. The Penn State student health insurance plan will cover the cost of the vaccine if received through UHS.

Flu vaccination clinics will be held on the following dates at the University Park campus:
-- Noon to 4 p.m. today, Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center
-- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 30, 205 Student Health Center
-- 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 1, 205 Student Health Center

Shelley Haffner, nurse manager for infection control and prevention at UHS, noted that while students “put a tremendous amount of time and energy into raising money for these kids,” the potential impact of the flu on young cancer patients is sometimes overlooked.

“Kate and Olivia have created a new and innovative approach to reaching out to THON participants and promoting the vaccine,” Haffner said. “Their understanding of the disease process, involvement with THON and enthusiasm for sharing their message make them great advocates for flu vaccination.”

For Malboeuf and Rudi, the motivation for reaching out to the THON community couldn’t be more obvious.

“We do this for the kids — for their health and for their survival,” says Olivia. “Their health and safety are our number one priority.”

Last Updated October 24, 2012