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Five Ways to Convince Patients they Need Flu Shots

Nurses Article   (27,063 Views 55 Replies 994 Words)
by Lynda Lampert, RN Lynda Lampert, RN (Member) Member Nurse

Lynda Lampert, RN has 4 years experience and specializes in telemetry, med-surg, post op, ICU.

22 Articles; 49,276 Profile Views; 101 Posts

Nurses should never force patients to take any treatment, but sometimes we have to be a bit more persuasive in our approach to a particular procedure. One such treatment is the flu shot, and there are several myths and fears surrounding this vaccine. Helping your patient understand the importance of the flu shot can go a long way to making them healthier.

Five Ways to Convince Patients they Need Flu Shots

Patients, especially chronically ill patients, need flu shots, but many in the general public have an open distrust for this vital vaccine. In fact, some people reject all vaccines, and that's a different issue entirely. Flu shots are still important, and some members of the public take a little convincing to get them to accept the shot. There are a great deal of myths and misconceptions about this shot, and some patients believe the hype.

As nurses, we have to try to do what's best for the patient, and sometimes that means educating about those myths. Of course, we could never force someone to take a shot that they are dead set against, but the persuasion of education may be enough to allow them to see that the need for the shot. If you come up against a patient who is chronically ill that refuses a shot, here are a few strategies to combat the myths they may believe.

Explain How Flu Shots are Created

Some patients do not understand exactly what the flu shot is, and this can lead to distrust and refusal. It helps to explain to them that it is an amalgamation of the various flu strains thought to be active for the coming season. You can also use this information to help explain why the shot needs to be performed every year. The flu strains change, and the new vaccine differs every year.

It helps to explain the flu and get patients to understand that it can knock them out for weeks. Emphasizing that the people in charge of creating the vaccine make it as safe as possible, but it isn't a guarantee against getting the flu. Some strains pop up every year that can infect even patients who have gotten the shot. Once this is explained, some patients are more open to the idea of getting a flu shot.

Emphasize Safety of Flu Shots

Flu shots are generally considered safe. You can use this information to educate the patient that they are better off with it than without it. Of course, there is often local irritation where the shot is administered, but most people don't tend to have reactions to the shot itself. The vaccine is rigorously tested for safety, and the possibility of a reaction is minimal.

You may also find patients who are afraid of getting a shot. It helps to explain that the shot only hurts for a minute, though they may have soreness later. The shot goes into the deltoid, an IM shot, and these are usually more painful than others. Explain that they will feel some discomfort at first, but it quickly goes away. Usually, the benefits of the flu shot are far more important than the momentary pain that some patients experience.

Assure Them They Won't Get the Flu from the Shot

One of the most prevalent myths about the flu shot is that it gives you the flu. This keeps more patients away from the shot than any other excuse. It is your job to explain to them that the preparation is a dead one. This means that the virus isn't active and helps the immune system recognize and destroy the virus when it comes around to infect.

Some patients do get the flu after a flu shot, but this is usually because they were already infected when they got the shot. In this case, it is difficult to convince the patient that the shot didn't lead to their symptoms. If you were the patient, you would have a hard time believing it, too. Tell the patient that getting the shot as early in the season as possible will prevent this phenomenon, but it is still possible.

Educate about Symptoms of Flu

Those who refuse the flu shot should be told the symptoms for several reasons. First, it is more likely that they can get the flu without the shot, and they should know what to look for in case they do become infected. Second, they may decide to have the shot once they realize how miserable it is to actually have the flu. The public is not usually educated about the signs and symptoms of the flu, and they may change their mind once they know.

You should tell them to watch for high fever, over 101 degrees F. The symptoms of the flu often are confused with that of the common cold. Stuffy head, congested chest, and muscle aches are all common symptoms. The difference is that the flu is generally more severe and lasts for a longer time. While the cold can last for a few days, the flu can linger for weeks, and this can cause inconvenience and health problems for the patient.

Explain the Complications of Flu

Healthy people do not usually suffer complications of the flu. Yes, they are miserable, can't go to work, and generally inconvenienced, but it doesn't descend into a medical crisis. This isn't true for those who are very young, very old or have a chronic disease. The immune system in these patients is not generally as robust, and this means that the flu can take hold and lead to further problems.

The most common problem that arises from the flu is the manifestation of pneumonia. In those with a compromised respiratory system, pneumonia can lead to a stay in the hospital and possibly a trip to the ICU. Even those with diabetes are at risk for the condition developing into pneumonia because of the general decrease in immune function due to high blood sugars. For the very young and the very old, pneumonia can be devastating and particularly hard to treat. Explaining these complications can help to convince even the most recalcitrant patient to accept the vaccination.

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22 Articles; 49,276 Profile Views; 101 Posts

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firstinfamily has 33 years experience as a RN.

790 Posts; 5,578 Profile Views

While I appreciate your comments and suggestions on how to get pts to participate more in flu vaccination, it is very difficult to do this when the CDC announces that this years flu vaccine may not be as effective for the variety of flu that is expected for this year. People see this on the news and feel why should they even get the vaccine if it is not going to totally prevent them from getting the flu??

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Lynda Lampert, RN has 4 years experience and specializes in telemetry, med-surg, post op, ICU.

22 Articles; 101 Posts; 49,276 Profile Views

No flu shot is calibrated for every strain that may come down the path. It is for those that are likely to become a problem in the community, and this means some strains may be left out. For the sake of the patient, though, and what they are hearing from the CDC, it helps to explain that the vaccine casts a wide net. However, some infections can break through, but those are unlikely. Would it be better to be cast open to every flu strain possible or be inoculated from the ones most likely to infect them? It may not prevent them from getting the flu -- and the CDC says that every year -- but it is the best defense we currently have against flu.

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Emergent has 25 years experience.

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I agree with first in family. We should be honest with pts, give information with all the facts. Also, we need to encourage health habits that will support our patient's own immune response to the flu, and other attacks.

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brandy1017 is a ASN, RN and specializes in Critical Care.

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I don't believe in the flu shot and am sickened that so many of us are being forced to take it regardless of the risk and our personal autonomy to our own body is being violated! I do not encourage my patients to get the flu vaccine. I'm glad they finally get a printout talking about the risks some serious from the vaccine, which they never used to get. I've taken care of too many patients that got guillaine barre from a flu shot. I'm not a stepford nurse and I won't let someone tell me what to think or push onto my patients. They at least have free will whether or not to take the vaccine. We should all be able to make a free informed choice! I can't be the only one who has encountered vaccine victims with guillaine barre from the flu shot!

Edited by brandy1017

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macawake has 10 years experience.

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I don't believe in the flu shot and am sickened that so many of us are being forced to take it regardless of the risk and our personal autonomy to our own body is being violated! I do not encourage my patients to get the flu vaccine. I'm glad they finally get a printout talking about the risks some serious from the vaccine, which they never used to get. I've taken care of too many patients that got guillaine barre from a flu shot. I'm not a stepford nurse and I won't let someone tell me what to think or push onto my patients. They at least have free will whether or not to take the vaccine. We should all be able to make a free informed choice! I can't be the only one who has encountered vaccine victims with guillaine barre from the flu shot!

It's much more common to get Guillain-Barré syndrome as a complication of influenza itself, other respiratory illness or viral/bacterial infection than it after taking the flu shot.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/guillainbarre.htm

(For what it's worth, I've personally never had a patient who got the syndrome as a result of the flu shot).

Evidence shows that the influenza vaccine saves lives and I believe that nurses should be supporters of vaccination. I agree that patients should receive information about possible side effects as well as the benefits of vaccination.

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69 Posts; 2,325 Profile Views

I would never push a flu shot on anyone, if they say No I leave it at that.

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Lynda Lampert, RN has 4 years experience and specializes in telemetry, med-surg, post op, ICU.

22 Articles; 101 Posts; 49,276 Profile Views

I think for patients who are at high risk for the flu and pneumonia, a flu shot is something that is vital. Yes, there are side effects, but how many medications do we give that have side effects that are much worse and much more common? Would you rather see that 70 yo COPD patient in the hospital with pneumonia because they were afraid of the outside chance of Guillane Barre? What's the greater risk? I would NEVER force a treatment on the patient, but I would certainly make sure they were informed and give them all the reasons it would be helpful for them -- including the possible risks.

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klone has 13 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Women's Health/OB Leadership.

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I don't "convince" anyone that they need it. I offer it, I tell them we recommend it, and I answer any questions they have. If they say no, I let it go. I believe in patient autonomy.

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RUmedic has 3 years experience and specializes in cardiac ICU.

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It's much more common to get Guillain-Barré syndrome as a complication of influenza itself, other respiratory illness or viral/bacterial infection than it after taking the flu shot.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC

(For what it's worth, I've personally never had a patient who got the syndrome as a result of the flu shot).

Evidence shows that the influenza vaccine saves lives and I believe that nurses should be supporters of vaccination. I agree that patients should receive information about possible side effects as well as the benefits of vaccination.

An argument for lowering risk of getting Guillain-Barré syndrome as a result of flu has no merit. Guillain-Barré syndrome is largely unexplained in the scientific community and there is no definitive and conclusive evidence pointing to flu as catalyst to Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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RUmedic has 3 years experience and specializes in cardiac ICU.

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I would never take a flu shot and would consider it useless because of constant mutation of the Influenza virus. There is simply no way to target all strains with precision so why bother? Flu vaccine is nothing more than a cash cow for pharm companies and it does more harm than good in many ways than one can imagine, especially when retail chains like Walmart, CVS and Walgreens are actively pushing it.

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Lynda Lampert, RN has 4 years experience and specializes in telemetry, med-surg, post op, ICU.

22 Articles; 101 Posts; 49,276 Profile Views

Perhaps convince was a poor choice of words, but what else should be used? How to Educate your Patient about Flu Shots? Maybe that would be better. That said, I wouldn't "force" the flu shot on patients, but I would recommend it. Even with its shortcomings, it is a preventative that is the best we have to combat flu. Severely ill patients can greatly benefit from it, and prevent further illnesses. It shouldn't be distributed to the general public in the wide way it is, but the very young, the severely ill, and the very old would be in great danger not to take it. That's my opinion on it. I believe in preventative medicine, and this is the best we have.

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