Thursday, October 30, 2014

Demand More Than a Paper Mask

My Facebook newsfeed is inundated with Ebola panic.  I am a nurse, so many of my Facebook friends are also nurses, or have various healthcare roles.  I have never before seen this many nurses be this upset about an infectious disease.  So I would like to ask everyone who is panicking about Ebola a few questions.

-If there was a thoroughly tested Ebola vaccine, would you get it right now?

-If the hospital you worked for required you to get this Ebola vaccine during this Ebola season, would you refuse?

-If you did in fact refuse, how would you feel if the hospital you worked for required you to wear a paper mask in lieu of the vaccine?

-If you were the coworker (or more importantly the patient) of a nurse refusing the vaccine and choosing to wear the mask, would you feel a simple paper mask was sufficient to prevent the spread of Ebola?

-Would you be upset if they pulled the mask down to cough or sneeze? Would you be upset if they removed the mask while in the break room, or on their way to the cafeteria to grab some lunch?

-Assume you are a patient and your nurse walks into your room wearing a mask.   You ask why they are wearing a mask and they responded that they were required to because they refused the Ebola vaccine.  When you voice some concern, they say "Oh, it's just Ebola."  How would that make you feel?

-Would you be concerned if your unvaccinated nurse previously cared for a patient with Ebola, and then came to work not feeling so well and then cared for you?

How would that make you feel, if you knew nurses refusing a vaccine for a disease that takes anywhere from 3,000 to 48,000 lives a year in this country? But wait a minute.... Ebola doesn't claim thousands of lives in the United States, nor is there a vaccine available for the public.

But influenza has been documented to kill thousands in a season. Yet, while there are vaccines to prevent transmission, people, even nurses, still refuse to get their annual flu shot.

Think about that for a moment.  

Although not gloriously paraded around social media at the moment, influenza can kill up to 50,000 Americans each year.  Be alarmed!  Influenza is more contagious than Ebola.  But guess what?  We can prevent some of those cases and save some of those lives by vaccinating ourselves and our patients.

Ebola has killed one person who traveled to the United States.  It has no vaccine.  It has killed approximately 4,000 worldwide.  If you are upset about Ebola, that's normal and understandable.  But you should also be upset about influenza, measles, and pertussis, amongst others.

Infectious diseases should upset nurses.  Preventable infectious diseases that are being spread due to vaccine refusal should really upset nurses.  Seeing colleagues willingly refuse their influenza vaccines based on misinformation should really really upset pro-science nurses.

Protect your patients.  Demand preparation.  Demand those you work with to join you in protecting the patients, each other and your community.  Get your flu vaccine!

"Ebola is very scary. But people in the United States are frightened of Ebola for statistically very little good reason. It's fear disproportionate to the risk. Influenza has far too little fear based on the risk. It's fascinating to me to see social media panic and listen to people worried about Ebola who have never had an influenza vaccine, where statistically the thing you will get this year is influenza. You'll probably do yourself and those around you the most good by getting a flu shot." - David Cennimo, infectious disease physician/assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Nurses Who Vaccinate member Margaret Smith is a Registered Nurse from Sacramento, California.  She is currently working in Gastroenterology and Quality Management, but her primary background is in Emergency nursing.  Margaret holds a Bachelors of Science from Grove City College, and studied nursing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  She is currently pursuing her BSN and MSN.  Margaret became passionate about vaccine promotion after having her first child, when she became aware of the anti-vaccine movement and local parents choosing not to vaccinate.  She has a husband, two daughters, a dog, and two cats, all fully vaccinated.  ;)  Her one wish is that nurses and healthcare professionals everywhere would understand and accept evidenced based practice and educate their patients accordingly.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Are Nurses Celebrating World Polio Day?

While some nurses are busy huffing and puffing about refusing free influenza shots, other nurses are taking action to protect children around the world from vaccine preventable diseases. One of these diseases they’re working to eradicate is the infamous Poliovirus. Today, we’re closer than ever to ridding the world of this devastating disease. However while the vast majority of the world is polio-free, there are still three countries where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan… Nearly 80 percent of all polio cases are concentrated in Pakistan. The two other remaining polio-endemic countries continue to show progress. Nigeria has decreased polio cases by 87 percent and Afghanistan has recorded fewer than 10 cases of this devastating disease. The remaining 1 percent of polio cases are the most difficult to prevent, due to factors such as geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict, and cultural barriers.

But what are nurses, so far and removed, in developed countries doing to stop polio?

They are celebrating World Polio Day. 

Every year, World Polio Day provides an opportunity to recognize the importance of polio eradication efforts. World Polio Day was established to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. Since then, GPEI has reduced polio worldwide by 99%.

World Polio Day represents celebration and awareness: We should celebrate the success of the polio eradication efforts- the millions of lives that have been saved and the fact that the polio vaccine has helped children avoid the devastating complications of polio. However we need to be aware of the need to continue the work that that is necessary to completely eradicate this horrid disease.

Rotary's campaign End Polio Now makes it easy for busy healthcare workers(who aren’t wasting time organizing protests against life-saving vaccines). The vast majority of nurses are pro-science and advocate for usage of medical technology that keeps patients and communities healthy.  If you’re one to recognize the positive impact that vaccines have made on lives everywhere, check out a Rotary chapter in your area. They’ve been playing a major role in the fight against polio. When Rotary began the fight in 1985, polio affected 350,000 people, mostly children, in 125 countries every year. Since then, polio cases have dropped by more than 99 percent. To date, Rotary has contributed $1.3 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than two billion children. After nearly 30 years, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative stands on the brink of history by making polio only the second human disease to be stopped forever.

To mark World Polio Day, Rotary will host a live-streamed global status update on the fight to end polio. Invited guests include Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners; celebrity ambassadors, including Ziggy Marley; polio survivors, including inspirational athlete Minda Dentler; and Rotary members. Nurses are encouraged to watch and live-tweet support during the event.
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Nurses are busy working here in the United States to address these global concerns. Many are working towards a solution here in our own back yard, with Shot@Life, a UN Foundation campaign that educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. If advocacy is your calling, sign up to become a champion today.

 Nurses Who Vaccinate members are sharing personal stories about polio on blogs and social media. You can also read a post here by Nurses Who Vaccinate member Julie Cali, about how polio has and still continues to affect her family today. She’s working hard to share her story and to educate others about the importance of vaccinating.

And Nurses Who Vaccinate members are celebrating World Polio Day by doing what they do best- throwing a party. If you’re in the New York/Long Island area tonight, you can also stop by our World Polio Day event, Nurses Night Out. Nurses and healthcare workers are some of the most compassionate people, and as we thank them for working hard to keep our communities safe and healthy, we’re going to be educating them on how everyone can play a part in this historical movement.

While it may be too late to host your own World Polio Day event, you can make a difference in many ways. You can donate to causes on the front lines, tweet and blog about polio, and watch the live-streamed events. Together, let us celebrate vaccines and work together to ensure that children everywhere are protected from vaccine preventable diseases and have a shot at life.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why This Nurse Chose a Flu Shot over a Mask (And then took a Selfie)

To be honest, I am one of the least photogenic people I know and probably the only person my age who has not mastered the art of the selfie.  I usually can’t be bothered to even think about selfies, never mind actually taking one.  But they are very popular, and probably will be for a while. Unlike Flu shots for some reason. Lately there seems to be a lot of controversy about flu shots, despite all the data and information researchers have showing that it is effective and safe.  I recently read that there were 108 pediatric deaths in the United States from Influenza during the 2013-2014 Flu season, and majority were unvaccinated  That is 108 children who won’t go home to their parents.  If you’re thinking well I’m not a kid but I am young and I am healthy why should I bother with the flu shot?  Put it this way during that same 2013-2014 flu season >60% of the hospitalizations for Influenza were people from ages 18-64 years old.  

Now I am a Registered Nurse, I have an associate’s degree in nursing and bachelors in psychology.  I am also currently working on finishing my BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing).  It’s pretty safe to say that helping people is of particular interest to me.  I care for others when they are not well; it’s what I do in my profession and what I do in my personal life.  When I am not working I will even volunteer my time at the health department, I care about the health of others even beyond my friends and family.  

When I was at my pinning ceremony after completing my ADN my entire cohort in front of all of our friends, family, and the faculty we recited what is commonly referred to as the Florence Nightingale Pledge:

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”

Getting my flu shot every year is one of the simple ways that I can elevate the standard of my profession and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.  By getting my flu shot every year I reduce my risk of being a vector of preventable disease and passing it on to the patients in my care, my loved ones at home or people I encounter in the community while going about my life.  I am practicing what I teach and preach about often the best health care is preventative care.  Being a nurse who vaccinates, is being a nurse who cares. 

Here is a selfie of me getting my flu shot this year and I hope you actively choose to get one too.  Why did I get my flu vaccine? I feel ethically and morally obligated to protect those around me that are at risk from my extra exposure by working in health care, and I hate being sick too.

When you do get your influenza vaccine, be proud and share it along with the many pro-science nurses and vaccine advocate who are speaking up loudly. Post your flu shot selfie on the Nurses Who Vaccinate Facebook page. Tweet it and post it to Instagram with the hashtags #VaxSelfie, #VaxWithMe #FluShotShoutOut. Be sure to send it to us at @NursesWhoVax . Who knows, if enough of us show the public that we as nurses are getting flu vaccines, maybe #FluShotsSaveLives will be the next trend. 

Tarsha-Marie Schwarzengerg, RN, Nurses Who Vaccinate Member

Nurse Tarsha-Marie is a Registered Nurse licensed in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Her specialties include nephrology, dialysis, home care and pediatrics. She is married with a three year old child with whom she enjoys knitting, hiking and camping. The family pets include cats, dogs and a rabbit, and yes, they're all vaccinated.