Forty-two thousand dollars of stimulus funds have made possible the Immunization Reaching More Children and Adults Grant, administered by the City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department.
The Health Department has provided limited free immunizations to qualifying City residents in the past, but stimulus funding has greatly increased its services this year by creating two limited-term contract medical assistants who bring immunizations to residents. One of the program’s most important tasks provides clinics for school-aged children whose vaccinations must be current in order to stay enrolled at school. With the help of stimulus dollars, this year the Health Department can provide a free clinic at any school that requests it. The extra funds not only provide additional vaccines and staff, but also cover overtime wages needed to provide a Saturday morning clinic at a school.
Phyllis Barnes, school nurse at Pathway Academy charter school, said that with so many students’ vaccinations not up to date, they faced a major problem.
“So our principal said, ‘Let’s call the Health Department and see if they will come to us,’” Barnes said.
After scheduling a clinic with Thuy-Tien Dang, City Public Health nurse supervisor, free immunizations were available to all students at Pathway Academy on Saturday, Oct. 2. Sixty-five students signed up.
Since April 2010, the Health Department has provided more than 44 similar outreach clinics to the community. During these clinics, 1,928 patients have been seen and 4,128 shots have been administered. Stimulus dollars are not only used to create additional jobs for healthcare professionals, but also to insure the future health and safety of the next generation.
Mariah Parker, Kansas City Health Department medical assistant, administers a vaccination to Raymon Harris while his sister Kyndall Tucker looks on.
|Mariah Parker, a 2009 graduate of Don Bosco Charter High School, has been working since high school toward her goal of becoming a registered nurse. A tough job market has made the process more difficult, but this summer she was finally hired as a medical assistant through the Health Department’s effort to expand immunization programs. Made possible through the Immunization Reaching More Children and Adults Grant, her new job equips her with the experience she needs to prepare her for a career in the medical field. |
While earning her medical assistant certification through Concorde Career College, Parker worked as an intern at the City Health Department. After completing the program, however, she was left searching for a job for which she had no long-term experience.
“A lot of medical assistant jobs want a year or two years experience,” Parker said. “But you have to start somewhere. I turned in applications and got a few interviews, but most of them wanted more experience than I had.”
As the jobless months multiplied without promising prospects, Parker continued her search. Finally, she received the call that the Health Department wanted to hire her as a limited-term medical assistant with stimulus dollars. At last, she could gain the experience she needed.
“I was looking - I never gave up, but if I hadn't gotten the job at the Health Department, I probably wouldn't have a job,” Parker said. “I guess I could have just volunteered [as a medical assistant] for a year, but I would have still had to work somewhere too. Maybe a fast food restaurant or something.”
As a medical assistant, Parker administers immunizations and tracks data for the department. She is thankful not only to have a job, but to have one that she enjoys so much.
“They have given me a great opportunity to work here,” Parker said. “I really like working with kids a lot and just knowing that we're helping them. Even though we're hurting their feelings, I know we're really helping them when we're giving them a shot.”
Hired in July, Parker will continue her job at the Health Department through April, after which she plans to apply to Park University to pursue her goal of becoming a registered nurse.
William Majok, a fifth grader at Pathway Academy Charter School, smiles after successfully sitting through his vaccinations.
William Majok, a fifth grader at Pathway Academy charter school, sat between his mother and older brother as he spent a few extra minutes of his Saturday morning waiting in his school's library. Several of his classmates and their families had already filtered in and out to receive other immunizations that had arrived and been administered free of charge by the City of Kansas City, Mo. Health Department.
William admitted that coming to school to get a shot in the arm was not his idea of the perfect Saturday morning. He usually sleeps in late—even into the afternoon.
"Unless I have a football game," he quickly added. The subject was not new to our conversation.
"You know you're talking to our star football player over there," Kim Waller, operations specialist at Pathway Academy, called from across the room.
"He says he plays running back?"
"Oh he plays everything!"
William was looking forward to his football game later that afternoon. He plays for the Pathway Pythons right now, but, like most boys his age, his future aspirations are higher.
"I want to play for the Tennessee Titans," he says calmly before adding, "because of Chris Johnson."
But to play for his school team, William must remain enrolled at Pathway Academy. To do that, he must stay up to date on his immunizations. That's where the Kansas City Health Department comes in, and why their expanded immunization outreach clinics are so important. William’s older brother Adam explained why—for at least that day—shots were more important than football.
“He needs his shots so he can be able to play—so he will be able to come to school.”
Still unsmiling and eyeing the chair where he would soon receive his shots, William quickly nodded in agreement.