Hospital Educator Named Immunization Champ

Jessica VanLannen

Organization Honors Jessica VanLannen for Hospitals’ ‘Cocooning’ Program

The woman behind an innovative project at ThedaCare hospitals to protect newborn babies from whooping cough is being honored as the first-ever immunization champion by the Northeast Wisconsin Immunization Coalition.

Jessica VanLannen, a registered nurse and a staff development educator at the Family Birth Center at Appleton Medical Center and the Theda Birth Center at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, developed the cocooning initiative to protect infants from the disease at both hospitals about a year ago. The project uses state funds to purchase the Tdap vaccine, which prevents whooping cough, and administer it to mothers of newborns, close family members and other caregivers.

By cocooning the newborn -- or wrapping him or her in the arms of family and friends who are protected against whooping cough -- the chance of contracting this disease is diminished, VanLannen said.

“We had a number of pertussis or whooping cough cases in our community and it made sense to me that we address the issue head-on,” said VanLannen, who helped ThedaCare’s hospitals in New London, Waupaca and Shawano roll out their own cocooning initiatives last fall. “By sharing with parents the importance of the vaccine and that by protecting themselves from this disease, they are protecting their babies, who aren’t old enough yet for the vaccine themselves.”

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing.

VanLannen said staff members at the birth centers were all vaccinated against whooping cough and by sharing that information with parents, it reinforced the vaccine’s importance. “Most children are inoculated against whooping cough, but over time that protection wanes and it’s important to be re-vaccinated, especially if you are in contact with newborns, who have yet to be vaccinated.

VanLannen will receive the honor during a special meeting April 24 at the Appleton Public Library as part of the group’s National Infant Immunization Week celebration.

“The coalition commends Jessica’s tireless efforts in implementing the Tdap immunization program within her hospital system. The Tdap Cocooning Program strives to increase immunization rates of parents and caregivers of young infants to prevent the spread of whooping cough (pertussis),” said Karen Volkman, chair of the Northeast Wisconsin Immunization Coalition. “Jessica’s knowledge and passion for disease prevention has yielded system-wide policies within five Wisconsin hospitals and is being used as a model for other programs within the state.”

While VanLannen is receiving the honor, she said the cocooning project would not have been possible without the support of ThedaCare leadership and hospital staff members. “We had a lot of support from everyone at ThedaCare and in the hospitals for this initiative,” she said. “While I’m excited to receive the award, I’m more excited that the project is taking hold and more newborns are being protected from this disease.”

AMC is a 160-bed acute care hospital that opened in 1958. In addition to general medical and surgical care, services include the Appleton Heart Institute, a fully staffed emergency department, pediatrics, birthing services, a comprehensive cancer center, and ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus, which integrates orthopedics, sports medicine, outpatient rehabilitation and other services. Appleton Medical Center is an accredited Chest Pain Center by the national Society of Chest Pain Centers.

Theda Clark Medical Center is a 166-bed acute care hospital founded in 1909. In addition to general medical and surgical care, specialized services include a birth center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin - Fox Valley, the region’s only American College of Surgeons Verified Level II Trauma Center, the Aylward Outpatient Surgery Center and ThedaStar Air Medical Helicopter. Theda Clark Medical Center also offers comprehensive neuroscience care and the Theda Clark Stroke Center was the first stroke center in Northeast Wisconsin to be certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. The Bariatric Program at Theda Clark, along with Midwest Bariatric Solutions and its surgeons, have jointly received two Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence designations by the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.