Earlier today, ARNBC participated in the Ministry of Health’s launch of the Annual Provincial Flu Campaign and hope this event will remind all British Columbians to get an annual flu shot. It’s certainly a great reminder to health professionals that we too need to protect ourselves from influenza.
On October 24, 2013, an arbitrator dismissed the grievance brought by the B.C. Health Sciences Association (HSA) against the B.C. government policy requiring healthcare workers to get a flu shot or wear a mask while caring for patients during flu season. The arbitrator wrote that, “given the seriousness of influenza, a program that increases immunization rates in the healthcare setting is a reasonable policy.”
ARNBC discussed this policy at length when it was first introduced last year. We are proud to have been one of the first organizations in British Columbia to recognize that the Ministry’s Flu Policy would protect the health of healthcare providers and patients across the province.
Last year we received many comments to our blogpost, Flu Shots, the Healthy Choice from nurses both for and against mandatory flu shots. That’s one of the advantages of a forum such as this – it allows nurses to share their thoughts and feelings with each another and with our professional association.
Now that the legal discussion of the policy has concluded, nurses have an opportunity to focus on working together to educate individuals and communities about the possible ramifications of a serious influenza outbreak.
Most nurses choose to get a flu shot, simply because we’ve seen what can happen to a healthy person with the flu, never mind someone who is vulnerable. None of us like to be sick. And we feel even worse knowing we’ve passed something on to our family, friends and colleagues. I have talked to many nurses who feel a great deal of personal responsibility. We are fortunate to have some excellent discussion and resource documents published by all three B.C. nursing organizations on the topic of flu shots, including ARNBC’s Statement on the B.C. Flu Policy, the CRNBC’s Practice Standard and the BCNU’s Overview. The CNA has published a Position Statement and partnered with Immunize Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on the 2013-2014 Flu Campaign, which includes resources and recommendations for nurses and others. All of these documents support yearly flu shots, although most of us were already making that choice, or at the very least intending to make that choice, long before this new policy came about. Others are more than happy to wear a protective mask when working with patients.
But debate about shots vs. no shots aside, as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the community setting, one of my responsibilities is to educate myself, and the home care nurses I work with about the potential consequences of the flu and talk to them about the big and small things everyone can do to reduce their likelihood of getting sick. Some of these things are covered regularly by public health with hand-washing campaigns, posters and regular reminders to stay home if you are feeling ill.
These are small things, but they could make a world of difference, and nurses have the knowledge and experience to think outside the box when it comes to solutions such as these. What are some other practical ways that we can talk to our families and our communities about preventing flu? While the healthcare organizations move ahead with campaigns and posters and education sessions in our schools, what are the small tips and tricks you have learned and can share with others about preventing flu? What suggestions could we make that the average consumer might not consider (like those nasty grocery cart handles), but make sense to us as nurses who see the impact of flu every day
To find the nearest flu shot clinic call HealthLink BC at 811 or go to www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu
Julie Fraser, RN, is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the area of Home Care. She has been a registered nurse for more than 15 years and has practiced in a number of different settings from residential care to acute medical and surgical care units, before focusing on community nursing, working in both clinical and educator roles.