The Role of Nurses in Country-Wide Vaccine Education

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Dr. Stephen Ferrara, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, Interim Executive Director of Jonas Nursing & Veteran’s Healthcare, explores how nurses are taking the lead in helping the country navigate the next phase of the pandemic: vaccination education.

How can nurses take the lead in vaccine education?

The Role of Nurses in Country-Wide Vaccine Education

According to November data from Pew Research Center, 39 percent of Americans said they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19. This means only 60 percent of Americans will be vaccinated despite a required inoculation rate of 80 to 90 percent to eliminate the spread, leaving a dangerous gap between necessity and reality when it comes to achieving herd immunity. While concerning, hesitancy is understandable considering the abundance of confusion, false information, historic mistrust of medicine by Black and Latino communities from systemic racial disparities, and inaccurate predictions surrounding the virus over the past year. Americans are feeling apprehensive, and it is not their fault. What we need is a clear understanding of the facts, the risks, and the rewards of vaccination, and nurses are in a unique position to help clear the air.

Nurse's Role

As the most trusted profession 19 years running according to Gallup, nurses play an invaluable role in reassuring and educating the public about both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, how they work, how they were made, who should get them, and why they are vital to our collective health. Whether they are at a bedside or in a boardroom, nurses of all levels have an opportunity and a responsibility to help close this potential immunization gap by doing what we do best: leading. Here are some tips for nurses as we move into the next phase of our journey with COVID-19:

Lead By Example

Visibility and personal testaments are key in helping turn the tide of public opinion. Consider sharing your vaccination experience on social media and with your community. The more people who witness positive vaccination stories from their peers, the more comfortable they will feel in receiving the vaccine themselves down the line.

The nurses who are part of the first wave of vaccinations sweeping the country were required to face their fears before anyone else -- and don’t think they didn’t have concerns. In fact, 36 percent of nurses reported they would not want to get the vaccine according to the American Nurses Foundation. As the country’s trusted healthcare role models, the first thing we nurses must do is address our own questions and uneasiness prior to advising others. You can’t successfully convince your colleagues, patients, friends and family to take the vaccine unless you are thoroughly convinced yourself. Your patients may ask if you will (or did you) get the vaccine. Resolve your own hesitations first, so your answer can be a resounding “yes”.

We are still weeks away from all healthcare personnel being immunized with the vaccine. It is important to understand that those in the highest risk groups are vaccinated first. There may very well may be a fear of missing out of receiving the vaccine in these first rounds of vaccination. Let us ensure those at the highest risk of COVID infection, receive the vaccination first.

Be an Arbiter of Truth

With an influx of information -- and misinformation -- circulating about the vaccine, sharing details and recommendations from reputable sources is essential. Point your patients and friends in the right direction by not only telling them the facts as they stand, but sharing online resources that are regularly updated for their continued use. Critically important is conveying that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Our best chance of immunity will only be in the weeks following the second dose. Note that other vaccines in the pipeline have different administration schedules. The situation concerning COVID-19 evolves everyday in the United States, and so does the status of available vaccines, who is eligible for inoculation, and behavioral guidelines for those who are not yet vaccinated. Continue to check the most up-to-date details and spread the word about the places where people can find trusted to-the-minute national and local information.

For the best overarching guidance concerning vaccination, turn to the CDC. The website’s pages titled “COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations” and “Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine” are particularly helpful for people with little to no previous medical experience, who may have trouble digesting complex explanations about vaccine science. The podcasts “COVID-19 Conversations” and “Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett — The Novel Coronavirus Vaccine” are also excellent resources to share and follow.

The work nurses have done in hospitals, labs, clinics, offices, schools, and from home this year is nothing short of heroic. Now, as we near the beginning of the end of this pandemic, nurses are taking the lead again. Together, we have the power to help the country embrace vaccination as the solution to COVID-19 and ensure a healthier, safer, and more prosperous 2021 for all.

Dr. Stephen Ferrara, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, Interim Executive Director of Jonas Nursing & Veteran’s Healthcare: Dr. Ferrara is Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor at Columbia University's School of Nursing. Dr. Ferrara also serves as Executive Director of the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York State (NPA), a position he was elected to by its Board of Directors in 2012. He graduated from Pace University's Doctor of Nursing Practice and completed a post-graduate fellowship in Health Information Technology for Clinician Leaders at George Washington University.

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5 Comment(s)

The Seasoned Nurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma ICU. Has 7 years experience.

Thank you for this! Nurses have to be the example and educate with science rather than conspiracy.

toomuchbaloney

Has 43 years experience.

1 hour ago, The Seasoned Nurse said:

Thank you for this! Nurses have to be the example and educate with science rather than conspiracy.

As we can see in these threads, nurses also fall victim to baseless fears, conspiracy theory and fear mongering. The majority will need to push back against that minority. 

nursej22, MSN, RN

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 36 years experience.

I would love to get a vaccine. Unfortunately, the powers that be in my local health department do not prioritize their own nurses. I am guessing I will be getting mine at Drugs'R'Us sometime in March. 

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Thank you for sharing. The vaccination is our way out of this.