April 17, 2017
World Immunization Week is right around the corner. The topic of workplace vaccinations is especially important for healthcare workers, and many organizations have policies and procedures to address it.
A former surgical nurse at KVH, Julie Hiersche now serves as our Employee Health Coordinator. Her work can be challenging, but that’s part of the reason she loves it. “It’s a lot to take in. There’s constant learning involved. And,” she laughs, “there’s the challenge of educating and encouraging staff on safe health practices,” including vaccination.
Why is vaccination a big deal?
It’s a touchy topic for many, and despite evidence to the contrary, beliefs among those who are anti-vaccine range from cynicism (“It’s a money maker for pharmaceutical companies”) to fear (“Vaccines do far more harm than good”). While flu vaccine is strongly encouraged at KVH, employees have the option to sign a declination form if they can't or don't wish to receive a flu vaccine, but they are then required to wear a mask during flu season while in the workplace. Depending on their employment structure, some healthcare organizations don’t allow you to decline. You simply won’t get hired – or stay hired – if you don’t comply.
Vaccines in general are a big deal at KVH for one big reason: our patients. “Most of our staff are healthy and can come through a bout of flu with no real problem,” says Hiersche. “But every day, people walk through our doors who can’t get the vaccine for various reasons. When we get vaccinated, we help protect those vulnerable patients by reducing the amount of exposure they get to dangerous conditions like the flu.”
I don’t work at a hospital. Why should I get vaccinated?
For your own protection. The flu is nothing to joke about. This year alone, over 400 people in Washington state alone died from the flu. At the very least, you’re looking at time away from work. Are you ready to spend those sick days?
To protect others. Your colleagues, your family, your friends – someone you rub shoulders with is vulnerable to the flu. And, healthy or not, no one wants a gift that comes with fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, those who are at high risk for serious flu complications include young children, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions.
What can I do to protect myself at work?
Beyond getting vaccinated, the best advice according to Hiersche is “without a doubt, hand washing. Keeping your hands clean goes a long way in keeping you healthy.” She also recommends checking with your healthcare provider for recommended actions you can take to protect yourself – and by protecting yourself, protecting those around you.
Communities in our county do a great job at promoting flu shots. There’s no way to miss the signs and ads and even posts on social media: “it’s time to get vaccinated!” So the next time you see those signs, do yourself a favor and get that shot. Save those sick days and maybe even save some lives in the process.
Video: Child demonstrates handwashing at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, Thirty Percenters does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare professional.