Members of the the Suburban Hospital Auxiliary are stepping out into the community.
Their most recent effort was a program that provides uninsured county residents with a free hat, scarf or blanket in exchange for getting a flu shot.
“I feel very proud of that fact that we have been able to help, especially in sad times, to add some cheerfulness,” said Phyllis Donoghue, president of the Suburban Hospital Auxiliary, whose volunteers knitted about 160 items for the program.
The program was created by avid knitter Nancy Miller, Suburban’s corporate director for service excellence and physician support services.
“It’s just such an awesome feeling to be able to have an impact on others, and in such a positive way,” she said.
With the aid of hospital employees like Miller, and the auxiliary’s 50 knitters, Knots for Shots has helped expand the hospital’s flu shot program, said Monique Sanfuentes, director of community health and wellness for Suburban. Since its inception three years ago, Knots for Shots has provided nearly 300 flu shots in exchange for winter items.
“We are keeping folks warm, which is a contributor to staying healthy, and we are helping to extend more vaccinations to folks who need them,” Sanfuentes said. “It is really a win-win, and something we are looking to continue in the future.”
Approximately 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart conditions, illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Knots for Shots was recently featured at Montgomery County's first Homeless Resource Day, which offered comprehensive resources for the county's homeless population, said Susan Kirk, executive director of Bethesda Cares, a nonprofit outreach center for the homeless which offers a day shelter, meals, and other services. There were approximately 1,250 homeless people in the county in 2009, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Kirk said the handmade winter items were a successful advertisement of and incentive for flu shots.
"I think it works for them," she said. "I know that when we’ve done flu shot programs here, I know that everyone hangs back. It’s sort of like the lollipops at the doctor’s hospital — making a bad experience more palatable."
Through the health and wellness program, Suburban holds health screenings throughout the community, and provides classes on topics such as cancer care, nutrition and physical fitness. Sanfuentes said the hospital reaches 135,000 individuals every year through 2,400 events. Of those, 80 percent are free.
“We take great pride in seeing the same people over and over,” she said. “The idea is building relationships with people so we can help them monitor their health. We prefer to see folks over and over again to help build those important health relationships.”