Friday Flu Shot: Healthcare Workers Unite to Fight
Oct 28, 2011

I have always admired people who work in the field of healthcare.  Not just because of the knowledge that they have acquired and use to help others, but for reasons much more altruistic.  If you consider the definition of the word “altruistic” (unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others) I believe it depicts a healthcare worker perfectly.

When you visit a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital, do you ever wonder why healthcare workers would want to purposely expose themselves to every bacteria and virus that happens to be sickening patients on any given day?  It’s certainly not for the glory.  And I’m sure it’s not so that they can claim some super immunity powers.  Rather, I believe that they accept the risk of illness that comes along with the job, because they are completely committed and devoted to the work that they do.

So when I hear of a suggestion that healthcare workers be immunized against influenza, I believe that it makes perfect sense on many levels.

First, for their own protection.  Even if they don’t have direct patient contact, it makes sense that healthcare workers are more likely exposured to influenza than say the average person.

Second, it’s a matter of good public health policy.  We expect healthcare workers to respect the health of the community as a whole, and to demonstrate personal action that can help prevent the spread of illness, both at work and in the community.  Just like we demand that they wash their hands and maintain other safety and health standards, it seems logical that they would be expected to be vaccinated – not just for influenza. but for all vaccine preventable diseases.

Thirdly, it’s an action that can directly impact patients.  It’s expected, by the nature of the job, that healthcare workers will take all reasonable actions to prevent transmission of diseases in the context of providing patient care.  While healthcare workers may fall victim to influenza as a result of patient contact,  it is also highly possible that if a healthcare worker becomes infected, that they could also be spreading influenza to other patients before the onset of symptoms; patients who are vulnerable and may not be strong enough to battle influenza without serious consequences.

While it’s evident that most healthcare workers recognize the importance of immunizing, there are still some people who haven’t recognized the benefits of influenza vaccine as a protection for themselves and their patients.

That’s why The American Nurses Association (ANA) has recently launched an educational campaign called  “Unite to Fight the Flu”  This campaign calls for an increase in healthcare workers influenza vaccination rates, while also reflecting the recommendation for everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated.  They not only explain why influenza vaccine is safe and important, but they also suggest ways in which nurses, and all healthcare workers, can become leaders and role models in promoting influenza vaccine as a safe and effective disease prevention strategy.

I would like to encourage everyone to check out the campaign resources they have provided, including the comprehensive Seasonal Influenza Toolkit which is based on five specific themes:

  • Vaccinate against influenza for protection of self and patients;
  • Collaborate with co-workers and colleagues to promote influenza vaccination;
  • Encourage patients, family, and communities to be vaccinated;
  • Advocate for enhanced immunization access through the use of standing orders; and
  • Use a safety needle to prevent needlestick injuries.

A highlighted feature of the campaign is this video message to nurses from ANA President Karen Daley emphasizing nurses’ power of influence.
Other resources in the campaign include a vaccine safety video that addresses healthcare worker vaccination hesitancy, clinical tools, patient education handouts, posters, and other multi-media tools for immunization education and outreach.
I think it’s fabulous that the ANA invites nurses, and all healthcare workers, to take pride in their power to protect patients by sharing these videos and messages with colleagues either on websites, in the office, or on Facebook and Twitter so that we can all help bring immunity to every  community and “Unite To Fight the Flu”.  And be sure to follow the ANA on Facebook  and Twitter (@ANAImmunize) to ensure that you continue to receive more fabulous resources regarding immunizations and healthcare workers.
Of course, if you’ve had experience with immunizations in your job as a healthcare worker, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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