Jan/13
2013

Refusing A Flu Shot

I personally know a number of people who didn't get a flu shot this year. Some were too lazy to be bothered, some didn't like needles, some didn't have time or opportunity, some didn't feel the need, and some just are plain skeptics. I understand, and to me it's a matter of personal choice. Where I work the office provides the shots for free over two days, and if it's free then I will happily oblige myself of the service. It's a big place with thousands of people. One person could affect dozens, and then dozens of dozens until the work grinds to a halt. I can see the point of an employer offering but not demanding that employees get shots.

Of course NONE of these people are healthcare professionals. To me that's a very big difference.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Patients can refuse a flu shot. Should doctors and nurses have that right, too? That is the thorny question surfacing as U.S. hospitals increasingly crack down on employees who won't get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.

"Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I'm a nurse," wondered Carrie Calhoun, a longtime critical care nurse in suburban Chicago who was fired last month after she refused a flu shot.

Carrie might as well just have said "why should I wash my hands?" after all patients are not required to do that either. The point is, Carrie, that you're not dealing with the average person, you're a *critical care* nurse. The people around you, who you have the job of caring for, are the weakest and most vulnerable aside from infants. The fact that you would choose to expose them to the final straw rather than protect against the flu tells me you aren't fully committed to their care. Your employer was right to fire you.

On the other hand if you were a dietitian or physical therapist I might agree, might. But not as a critical care nurse no.

There's a cliche about 'walking the walk' or 'eating your own dog food' but however you want to put it a health care professional needs to care about health, theirs as well as others. Doctors and Nurses who are not comfortable with getting shots to prevent the spread of a virus are in the wrong profession. Either you believe in medicine or you don't, with one exception. If a health care professional is allergic to shots I can understand refusing, but in that case the person should care enough to excuse themselves or take additional precautions.

At Calhoun's hospital, Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., unvaccinated workers granted exemptions must wear masks and tell patients, "I'm wearing the mask for your safety," Calhoun says. She says that's discriminatory and may make patients want to avoid "the dirty nurse" with the mask.

So playing Typhoid Mary (or Fanny Flu-spreader) and not wearing a mask is better? Because it makes you feel good while it makes patients sick? Clearly Carrie you are in the wrong job.

Statistics bear up the effectiveness of flu vaccination. In places where people are ill or at risk, such as nursing homes and day care centers, shots should also be mandatory. If someone chooses or cannot get a shot it should be clear enough for others to make an informed decision about going near them. Either you believe in modern medicine or you don't. Sorry, it's not a game to play with the lives of others.

Frankly if I were ill and my nurse didn't want a flu shot I'm pretty certain I wouldn't want her as my nurse. I'd suggest she or he find a new career.

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