Flu shot part of protecting patients, workers

I am writing in response to Elaine Distelrath’s letter (Herald, Aug. 28). Distelrath states that mandatory flu shots for nurses is “uncaring.” I think it is quite the opposite of uncaring. Historically, as health-care providers, we are required to provide proof of regular childhood vaccinations and booster immunizations, as well as tuberculosis testing.

Ensuring that health care providers have been vaccinated is intended to protect the public’s health and that of the health care provider.

Mandating immunizations is not designed to polarize nursing – it should be looked upon as a unified action for the protection and safety of those we serve. By supporting the mandatory vaccination of all health care workers, we are protecting our patients – much like we protect them from infection by hand-washing, wearing masks and using sterile gloves.

Influenza is a deadly disease and is the No. 1 cause of vaccine-preventable death in the United States. It is spread from person to person through respiratory transmission (coughing or sneezing). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults share the virus 24 hours before symptoms actually begin, and children can share the virus for several days before their symptoms appear. Once symptoms appear, the infection can continue to be transmitted for five to 10 days. In the meantime, an individual health-care worker might come in close contact with more than 100 people in just one day.

Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath – a promise to do no harm to any living being. We nurses take the Nightingale Pledge, a modified Hippocratic Oath stating that we will devote ourselves to the welfare of those committed to our care.

Nurses have forever been the protectors and advocates for the public’s health. Keeping up with the recommended vaccinations is about respecting and maintaining trusting relationships.

As health-care providers, we do so to continue to provide safe and compassionate care of the people whose lives have been entrusted to us. It’s essentially the ethics of patient care and what we signed up for when we chose to devote ourselves to caring for others.

Toni Marie Abbey, R.N.