So my kid brought home a notice from the school nurse last week, informing me that they needed a record of her immunizations by October 1st, or she would be BANNED from the school.
Also she needed to get a meningococcal vaccine, by October 1st. Same deal.
I was (aside from the annoyance of arranging the vaccine and the paperwork) pleased by this, of course. It means that the Fort Smith Public School system is requiring vaccinations. So, yay.
On the other hand, when I called our clinic to arrange the meningococcal vaccination (and try saying that out loud over the phone), the nurse informed me that they didn't give those.
"Um," I said. "Okay?"
"You have to go to Public Health."
"Public Health," I said, because who knew Fort Smith had such a thing. (Though again, yay!) "Do I just show up, or..."
"Oh, no. Make an appointment."
She gave me the number, and I did. Yesterday morning, I kept the kid home from school and off we went. The person I had spoken to had instructed me to bring along the kid's "shot record," and I found out why once we reached the first station.
But before that, we spent an hour out in the waiting room. (An hour past our appointment, because Public Health is vastly over-worked and I would bet underfunded. The room was crowded with small children there to get their vaccinations, and pregnant women on WIC or going for WIC, and pregnant women there for other reasons I didn't quite get.) The kid was getting nervous, since she had a history test at 11:00 that she really wanted to make.
But once we got called to the first station, where we gave up our data, everything went really swiftly. The first station was a row of windows, with women (yes, all women, and most of them brown women) putting data into computers. She took the kid's immunization record, and my ID and insurance information, and using that, along with frequent interrogation of me (who she called "Mom") she spent about fifteen minutes putting all the kid's immunization into the Public Health database.
Through this process, she discovered that we'd missed the kid's 12-year-old varicella vaccination (apparently they are re-vaccinating kids at 12 now because so many people are not being immunized), and the Tdap vaccination she should have had at around the same time.
So we added those to the Terrible Schedule of NEEDLES in The Arm the kid would have to get.
After that, we went to Waiting Room # 2, but were only there about a minute. (Just long enough to have a brief squabble about whether the kid should get out her history notes and study a little while we waited. Conclusion of argument: No. Because she remembers all the history perfectly, that's why, so shut up.)
The Public Health Nurse was great. Talked to the kid as well as me, which I love in a health worker, explained everything, and didn't lie about whether the shots would hurt. She did all three very quickly.
(The staff, overall, in fact, was wonderful: patient, kind, and polite, under what must often be trying circumstances. I could wish the waiting room was less hot and crowded, and the chairs more comfortable, but I imagine that's a funding problem.)
Then she printed out not one but two complete copies of the kid's immunization records -- one for me and one for the school nurse -- without my even asking.
Total time elapsed: One hour and fifteen minutes.
My rating of Arkansas Public Health: A+
25 minutes ago