Code Oink: An RN Considers the H1N1 Vaccine.

    The other day I was walking through a hallway at the hospital, when one of the staff began coughing. He looked embarrassed, and I told him he’d better cut it out, or someone may call a Code Oink, which is:  he gets tackled to the floor, has a cotton swab pushed up his nose, a vaccination shot into his arm, and a mask thrown over his head before he’s booted out of the hospital and into the street. We both laughed, but neither of us was sure it wouldn’t actually happen.

     I’ll probably get the H1N1 vaccination this flu season. I’ve had MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), tetanus shots, and the hepatitis B series, all without damage.

    Personally, I’m still waiting for SARS, West Nile Virus, Bird flu, and killer bees, each of which were predicted as the next pandemic of their time. 

     Cynical as I am, it’s logical to admit that eventually the epidemiologists will be right, and we’ll have a pandemic of something;  maybe it will be the Swine Flu.

     What puzzles me is my aversion to taking the vaccine. As mentioned, I’ve been vaccinated for almost everything else. Why am I dragging my feet over this?

     The answer is: I resent the insinuation that I am not considering my patients’  or coworkers’ safety  if I refuse the vaccination.

     Nurses work twelve hour shifts, often without breaks of any substance. We stay over time because of late admissions, coding patients and short staffing. We come in on our days off for education and staff meetings. We miss family birthdays and holidays. We fly in small aircraft through bad weather transporting sick patients from one hospital to another so that they receive the care they need. We admit patients with contagious diseases we aren’t aware that they have. We continue to take care of them once we know what terrible, contagious disease they have.  We are exposed to second hand smoke from our patients and their visitors. We are exposed to violent patients. Still, we return for our next shift.

        I cannot speak for any nurse other than myself, but attempts to make me feel guilty do not motivate me; they make me feel manipulated. 

        Just tell us what I perceive to be the truth:  Health care administrators are afraid that this time, there really is going to be a pandemic, and if health care professionals don’t get the H1N1 vaccine, there may not be enough available staff to take care of all of the sick patients. Just say “please get the vaccination. We can’t afford for all of you to get sick.”  Admit it: you need us, all of us.

     We’ve known it all along.