Barb Nielsen is a Minnesota native who moved to St. Louis in 1995 on account of her husband’s job with the postal service. In 2006, Barb heard through a friend that the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) was looking for somebody to help as a clerk at weekend clinics as part of their Wellness & Vaccinations Program. She got the job and assisted with community and church clinics for one season.
Barb became the clerk for the larger community flu clinics the next year, working as the right-hand woman to the clinic director. Through that role, she learned a lot about flu vaccines and vaccinations for diseases like pneumonia and shingles. Barb was introduced to the business aspects of the clinic, documenting insurance and service reports as well.
In 2009, Barb was able to further her knowledge by shadowing the coordinator for the entire immunization program. She worked with the program throughout the flu season and decided to apply for coordinator position. She was offered the position the following January. As coordinator, Barb became responsible for scheduling all the clients and nurses, answering client questions and making sure things flowed as smoothly as possible. “I was already well-versed in the program, but the coordinator opportunity enabled me to direct new ideas and be as helpful as I could.”
Barb served as coordinator for the program until she retired in the fall of 2017. However, she missed her role, and the following year she inquired about a clerk position opening for the flu season. VNA offered her the position, and she has been back filling that roll ever since.
“For the immunization program, I think I bring a level of expertise and experience to the job that I don’t have to be trained how to do some things,” says Barb. “I know how the program works, I know what’s important, I know what should be a priority and I think the continuity of me continuing to come in and work with them as a clerk in the fall helps keep the program flowing a little bit smoother.”
Her main responsibilities as a clerk are keeping track of vaccines and supplies, organizing the vaccine and supply room, and helping nurses get what they need for their clinics. Barb loves these aspects of her role.
One of her favorite things about her work at VNA is seeing how the immunization program has grown since she first started in 2006. “We basically just did flu shots at that time along with a little bit of wellness,” says Barb. “But we expanded the wellness program and got certified through the state of Missouri and the CDC to be a vaccine for children provider.”
VNA is now able to provide services to all ages of individuals as young as six-months-old through seniors. “It’s great to know we can help somebody and some families through every stage of their life. We have a service that might be of benefit to everyone,” says Barb.
COVID-19 hasn’t changed the basics of Barb’s job, but it has changed the program. Scheduling individual immunizations in advance to help with social distancing and even transitioning to doing drive-through clinics for some corporate clients is now a must for program operations. .
“I find my job interesting and challenging, and I like that I’m able to contribute the knowledge that I have to make a difference in the program,” says Barb. “I love getting to know the nurses and helping them be the best they can be for their participation in the immunization program.”