The mantra of the healthcare sector has always been to cause no harm. In plain language, this means to have the patient’s best interest in mind. Inadequate knowledge about vaccines, however, means the best interest of patients takes a backseat.
According to research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, no one is more vulnerable to picking up contagious illnesses than healthcare employees. When you’re tasked with the responsibility of handling body fluids or working outright with patients, you’re more likely to contract (and spread) various diseases.
Fortunately, proper vaccination can reduce your risk of catching diseases and passing them on to at-risk patients.
How do vaccinations help? As the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) explains, vaccines are usually comprised of a live but undermined virus that provides immunity against health-related disorders such as chicken pox, mumps, and measles. Some also contain dead or inactive viruses. When the process of immunization takes place, the receiver’s body responds with an “immune reaction” that generates antibodies to fight a particular disease.
So, if you’re exposed to a specific disease in the future after getting vaccinated, your immune system will have the appropriate antibodies in place to fight the illness, keeping your health intact. Most vaccines undergo a rigorous quality testing process before being declared safe for healthcare workers.
Important Vaccines for Healthcare Workers
Now that you understand the importance of getting yourself vaccinated, let’s look at the recommended vaccines for people working in the healthcare field.
Note: Healthcare employees come from a variety of professions and departments. Get yourself vaccinated if your occupation is one of the following: nurse, laboratory technician, dental professional, health emergency professional, physician, hospital volunteer, administrative assistant or pharmacist.
While the requirements and laws around vaccinations vary, it’s essential to get yourself immunized for the following diseases.
- Influenza: CDC recommends medical workers to get a dose of this vaccine every year.
- Hepatitis B: It is recommended that those who haven’t been tested for hepatitis B get the three-dose vaccine. If you qualify for the dosage, you can get the first dose right away, the second one in a month, and the last one approximately five months after. It’s also important to undergo anti-HB testing after the third dose to ensure the vaccine is working.
- Varicella (chickenpox): If you haven’t done a blood test to check your immunity against chickenpox, get two vaccines done with a month’s break in between.
- Measles: Those who haven’t been tested for resistance against measles should get two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose can be taken right away, and the second one can be taken 30 days later.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap): You can get a one-time Tdap vaccine immediately if you haven’t received one in the past. Then, every 10 years apart, get a Td booster to keep yourself protected against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Although strict policies have increased healthcare vaccination rates, they do not always succeed in embedding the importance of immunization into workers’ internal values, beliefs, and sense of well-being.
Strategies to Improve Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Personnel
While there’s no silver bullet to improving vaccination uptake among healthcare employees, institutions may be able to find success with the following measures.
- Educate workers about the importance of immunization through self-help materials like blog posts, videos, quizzes, and more.
- Eliminate pricing barriers where possible.
- Offer the vaccine at convenient locations and times when healthcare personnel are available. This may include making vaccines available near the cafeteria, during lunchtime, during educational activities, etc.
- Provide feedback about vaccinated rates to employees, and explain how getting vaccinated is integral to the safety of their patients.
- Arrange campaigns to endorse healthcare vaccinations among the staff at medical institutions.
- Encourage those who’ve been vaccinated to act as role models. Convey to them that their decision can have a significant impact on their co-workers’ decision to get immunized.
- Offer small incentives or rewards for timely vaccinations. A few ideas include employee lunch, raffles, and a monetary bonus.
- Encourage team building as it can result in increased compliance with the overarching goals of a healthcare organization, including vaccination.
- Coordinate with pharmacies to provide doses for personnel working at facilities as a regular procedure.
Lastly, if an institution delivers the dosage to healthcare staff, a written document should be offered to the staff member to provide to their medical provider. Organizations should also enter each person’s vaccine entry into their immunization register. Insurance payments may be hard to obtain so staff should consult with the insurance provider before administering the vaccine.
Healthcare workers are at the vanguard of the country’s well-being. It is critical that they “walk the walk” when it comes to vaccines, serving as positive examples and ensuring that they don’t contribute to developing health problems triggered by not adhering to vaccination recommendations.