Protect Your Patients Get the Flu Shot


Posted to Nursing, Travel Nursing, Uncategorized

Protect Your Patients Get the Flu Shot

The 2008-9 flu vaccine is beginning to appear. This year, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says there will be an all-time high supply of the vaccine as manufacturers predict as many as 146 million doses will be available. This means many more people will be able to be vaccinated than ever before.

Health care workers often forgo the opportunity to be vaccinated and present a risk their colleagues and patients alike. Statistically, about 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu each year and up to 200,000 are hospitalized.

This puts nurses and other health care workers at tremendous risk for exposure. Even when asymptomatic, nurses and other heath care workers can then contribute to the spread of the flu virus.

A recent study of health care workers reported in the August 4, 2008, issue of Advance for Nurses found that 59% of health care workers surveyed did not recall having had any flu symptoms and 28% stated they did not recall having any respiratory illness. This gives rise to a false sense of security and perception that health care workers do not need to be vaccinated.

The ethics of this erroneous perception can lead to a violation of the moral code for health care workers to protect the public. Knowing that the risk of infection exists, nurses and other health care workers need to be vaccinated in order to do their part to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. The public believes and expects that health care workers will protect them from harm.

Last year the flu vaccine was found to be ineffective in covering the majority of flu virus that emerged. This year, manufacturers have changed the formula entirely and it will cover three new strains that research shows will most likely cause influenza this year.

Whether or not the vaccine covers the exact strains of active virus each year, those who are vaccinated and subsequently become infected with the virus will have a much milder case of influenza than those who are not vaccinated which also reduces the likelihood of complications which can lead to severe illness and even death.

Each year in the U.S. approximately 36,000 deaths are caused by influenza and the complications such as pneumonia. Those most at risk should be vaccinated, unless otherwise contraindicated. This includes children aged 6 months to 19 years, pregnant women, those of any age with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and lung diseases.

Those who reside in nursing homes and long term care facilities where influenza can spread rapidly should be vaccinated. Teachers, health care workers, and anyone who cares for the elderly or infirm.

Anyone who cares for or has contact with children under the age of 6 months should be vaccinated to reduce exposure to this age group which cannot be vaccinated.

Nurses need to take the lead and set the example for all health care workers as well as the general public to be vaccinated and protect others from the flu virus. This can be even more important for travel nurses who spend time in many different parts of the country. You can send an E-card from the CDC website to your colleagues, friends and family to remind them to be vaccinated as well.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the author/owner of
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