Here’s my reasoning:
1. Flu vaccinations don’t guarantee protection from the flu and therefore even nurses who are vaccinated may get and spread it.
2. Healthcare workers infected with HIV, Hepatitis, and possibly other contagious diseases, known and unknown are among us.
3. To allow nurses the right to refuse b/c of religious beliefs, but not personal and educated preference seems archaic to me and actually supports a heirarchal way of thinking rather than the kind of educated empowerment that healthcare professionals, consumers, and systems can all benefit from.
4. The policy does nothing to eliminate the spreading of the flu from visitors, (do we require all visitors to be vaccinated and if so, when as the vaccine won’t be effective for roughly 2 wks)?
5. Patients may get a false sense of security going to a hospital with a policy like this and be less vigilant about monitoring/insisting on handwashing.
6. There is nothing that addresses the number of staff taking care of patients which is an invisible, yet important concern that gets very complicated with human resource issues involving staff turnover, morale, full/part time benefits etc. Yet statistically, the more people involved the more likely transmission. In other words, having different staff every day contributes to the problem even though it may save money in terms of benefits.
Ensuring education about flu transmission and making vaccines available (early in the season) with a declination process is safer for patients and more respectful of HCWs. In addition, keeping healthcare workers healthy with reasonable workloads and respect for the time it takes to do things properly and work-life balance, along with appropriate use of masks, will go a long ways to minimizing the spread of ANY contagion. (Masks help prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses that are in droplets that go into the air when someone with the ‘germs’ coughs or sneezes. They don’t eliminate the transmission though, b/c bacteria and viruses are smaller than the filter….so the mask prevents the droplets from getting through and as long as the germs stay in the droplets and the droplets on the outside of the mask, then prevention is successful. Other factors would be how long the person is using the mask, how long the germ is viable without a human host, eg temperature, moisture. (HIV-several hours, Hepatitis C-several days).
I personally got a flu shot, but would have resented being forced to or having my religious beliefs justify my refusal but not my own decision. If I had a loved one who suffered because of a contaminated injection of any sort, (like incidents of fungal meningitis, or hepatitis C from healthcare system problems), or side effect to the vaccine, I would think twice. I respect those who don’t get the vaccine once educated and given access. Please practice appropriate disease prevention hygiene!
The 1/3/13 Huffington Post article by Ryan Grenoble, entitled, Goshen Hospital Employees Fired After Refusing Mandatory Flu Shot goes into some detail about who got fired from an Indiana hospital and why.
The Massachussets Nurses Association has a great list of systems-focused recommendations featured in a recent post; Thank You Massachussets Nurses Association..