It’s hard to think of the onset of another cold winter while the sun is shining and the supermarkets are still stocked with Pimms and ice cream promotions.
But the nights are closing in, the last bank holiday until Christmas is less than a week away and so it’s time to start thinking about winter. For the health profession, that usually means coping with an onslaught of winter ailments and exposure to cold-related illnesses. In fact, NHS Employers has already launched its flu campaign for health professionals, as we announced on Nursingtimes.net.
But despite a hefty media campaign from NHS Employers, according to our Nursing Times Facebook page and nursingtimes.net forum, fear over picking up worse illnesses from the vaccine and just a lack of real belief in its power to protect seem to be the main motivators deterring nurses from getting the jab. NHS Employers says that the risk of having a serious reaction to the seasonal flu vaccine is less than one in a million. It is much lower than the risk of getting seriously ill from having the flu itself.
The seasonal flu vaccine is one of the safest vaccines in the world and is given to millions of people in the UK each year. The idea that so many nurses are not being vaccinated leaves some in the profession incredulous. “We are professionals. It’s about science not belief. Get jabbed!,” says @TomBolger on Twitter. “Nurses not getting flu jab is bonkers. Are they planning sickies to reduce work-related stress?”
He contends that suggesting that the vaccination may actually be bad for your health is unproven hokum. But the beliefs that many nurses have around the vaccine provides us with an insight into the psychology of many patients. Are your patients non-concordant because of fear? Misinformation? Urban legend?
If well-informed, well-educated and health-interested professionals can express such divided views over something that is intended to protect and preserve their wellbeing, then it’s little wonder that patients, who are given half as much information in a 10-minute appointment go away in disbelief about the importance of following their treatment regimen.
Scientific fact alone, it seems, is not convincing. What’s required is anecdotal evidence about the effects and a chance to discuss some of the views and opinions the patient may have heard from friends, colleagues and neighbours. The nurse’s role is not just about doling out medication and advice, but listening to possible concerns and criticisms, taking them on board where necessary or explaining - respectfully - why they are inaccurate or irrelevant in certain cases. Only when someone truly believes that the cure will work for them will they be resolved to follow that path.
And while we’re at it, make sure you’re well informed about the flu jab this coming winter season. Go to the NHS Employers website to find out more.