Nursing Student Invention: Reducing Immunization Anxiety

KELOWNA – When Shannon Perger, a 4th year nursing student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus (UBCO), was tasked with creating a research-based tool that could be used with children and youth to reduce anxiety associated with immunization, she rose to the occasion.

Shannon utilised Interior Health’s approved mental health resources for children and youth and created anxiety-reducing toolkits, which have already proven to be invaluable for Grade six students during their routine immunisations.

“One student rated the toolkit as ‘totally sick’ which we’re guessing translates to ‘really good’,” says Nicole Hall, Public Health Nurse (PHN) at the Community Health and Services Centre (CHSC) in Kelowna and Shannon’s mentor. “The Kelowna PHN team is so excited to have these toolkits as we embark upon Grades one to 12 measles catch-up campaign in schools across the Central Okanagan.”

Shannon had this to say about her resourceful invention:

“My mentor, Nicole, identified that there was a lack of anxiety reduction tools to utilise during Grade six immunisations. After hearing this, I connected with a nurse in Vernon as I heard that they used posters as a distraction method for their school immunisations. I did some research using multiple sources, including the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Immunize BC, Unicef, and many other scholarly articles and videos.

From this research, I summarised what would be most helpful for this age group to reduce anxiety related to immunisations. I concluded that a hands-on kit would be the most useful and crafted eight prototypes.

These boxes each contained: a colourful stress ball, a fidget spinner, a sequin pouch that changes colours when brushed in the opposite direction, a sensory brush, a small squishy/jelly animal, a sparkling wand, and a hand-sanitizer that is to be used prior to using the items.

When I presented these boxes at an intake meeting to other PHNs, I suggested they instruct the children as follows:

Spin the fidget spinner and continue to watch it spin while they receive their immunisation.
Squeeze the stress ball (or squishy/jelly animal) in the opposite hand while maintaining a relaxed arm that will receive the immunisation.
Tip the sparkling wand back and forth and focus on the sparkles falling from top to bottom.
Stroke the sequins back and forth to change their colour.

Use the sensory brush with their free hand to stroke the lower part of the arm being immunised.
I was overwhelmed with the positive response by the children, like every child, but one used it on the first day it was rolled out. The PHNs who were immunising the children also reported that the whole process of sitting the child down, explaining what would be done, and then giving the immunisation, was all streamlined by the use of these boxes as the children were able to take their minds off of the process of drawing up the immunisation.”

During Shannon’s work and research on this project, she also found that school-aged children didn’t feel they were being asked about their immunization experience. She included her findings at the intake meeting and suggested that experiences could be made increasingly positive by simply, and briefly, asking the child how the experience was and if they found the distraction box useful. Shannon used this opportunity to create an evaluation tool survey card.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here