Flu Shot? Yes, Check That Box

This week I got a flu shot, free of charge from the hospital. I bared my deltoid muscle, allowing a nursing student to practice her immunization and injection skills. She did a pretty good job. It barely hurt. Those are penguins on the adhesive strip she covered the tiny bead of blood from the needle prick with, in the photo to the right.

Flu shot? Yes. Check that box

Flu shot? Yes. Check that box

I hardly thought twice about getting a flu shot this year, which hasn’t always been the case. In fact, in the past I opposed mandatory flu shots for nurses; arguing against someone else making rules about my body. While I was never threatened with job termination for refusing flu shots, some hospitals did make nurses refusing them uncomfortable with policies mandating they wear respiratory masks in patient care areas during flu season, or producing notes from their primary care provider explaining the nurse’s choice to avoid it; stuff like that.

What changed my mind about flu shots? I don’t know it has actually changed. What’s changed is my attitude: I don’t feel it’s worth the fuss anymore. It’s not a battle I choose to fight. I don’t know if this is a sign of maturity, or aging, but it’s lost its importance in the greater scheme of my life.

This year, and the last, I got a flu shot, and then I went back to work.

What about you? Are flu shots still a hot topic for nurses like they were in 2009, during the height of the H1N1 virus epidemic?

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.