No matter where your travel nursing job takes you this season, the flu will inevitably be a factor in healthcare and patient treatment.
Each year, the flu can surface as early as October and run until May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the exact timing is uncertain and dependent on factors like location and season. With that being said, the flu is typically most prevalent from December until February.
Beyond washing your hands frequently to kill germs and staying away from people who are sick, getting the flu vaccine is one of the only ways for patients to protect themselves from the flu virus.
Benefits of the flu vaccination
According to the CDC, the flu shot not only protects patients from getting sick, but also shields the people around your patient, particularly those who may be more susceptible to contracting the flu.
By not getting sick, your patients will be able to do all of the things they want and meet their obligations this winter. In fact, the flu significantly interrupts the workforce each year, according to the University of California, San Francisco.
“Each flu season, millions of workdays are lost due to the flu, resulting in billions of dollars in sick days and lost productivity,” Dr. Adrienne Green, associate chief medical officer at UCSF Medical Center, explained.
In some cases, the flu can lead to hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The flu vaccination itself can reduce the amount of flu-prompted hospitalizations by 71 percent among adults. That number increases to a 77 percent reduction for those over 50 years old.
Debunking flu vaccination myths
Nearly 45 percent of Americans were vaccinated for the flu during the 2012-2013 season, according to the CDC. For the remaining 55 percent, there were many reasons why patients did not feel the need to get a flu shot. However, many of their arguments are often based on myths, not facts. As one of the many duties of a nurse, it is important to educate patients to ensure they are making the wisest decisions possible for their health.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the main reasons people do not get the flu vaccination include:
- Claiming the flu shot made them sick in previous years.
- Having a mindset that they can handle the flu if they get it.
- Saying that they do not have a history of getting the flu, so there is no need to get a shot.
- Thinking they do not need the shot because they are healthy and young.
- Wanting to avoid the cost of the flu vaccination.
In reality, these are all faulty reasons. The flu vaccination is often covered by health insurance, and no matter a patient’s age, the CDC recommends flu vaccination. Additionally, by the way that the flu vaccination is designed, it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccination itself.
“Every study of influenza indicates that you can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chairman of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told U.S. News & World Report. “And it’s not conceptually possible, either.”
However, the flu shot may initially cause patients to experience minor symptoms like “soreness and a low-grade fever,” according to Schaffner. So, when you are administering flu shots or meeting with patients, be sure to tell them about these negligible side effects to ensure they do not think that the vaccination gave them the flu.
What have you found to be the reason behind patients avoiding flu vaccination? How do you help educate them on the benefits of the vaccine?