Students in nursing programs learn to take care of ill patients, many of whom have communicable diseases such as influenza. Medical facilities have always done their very best to limit cross-contamination and exposure to these illnesses and many are now taking extra steps to protect employees and other patients. Starting this year, most nurses in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare environments will be required to report on their immunization status against conditions such as the flu. While many activists claim that this requirement infringes on the rights of individuals to choose their healthcare, some medical employees say it’s just business as usual.
The Centers for Disease Control and its National Healthcare Safety Network will require vaccination reports from all types of healthcare providers in the United States. The mandate includes employees, volunteers, private providers, contractors, and even students in nursing schools and other institutions. They will be required to answer a multitude of questions about influenza vaccination and other diseases. Even though this new program doesn’t require professionals to become vaccinated, some employers are refusing to continuing employment for employees who refuse the vaccines.
To add to the burden on medical facilities, some of the questions handed down by the CDC must be asked of all employees – regardless of job description and nature. If a nurse even walks through a certain area of the facility on a consistent basis, he or she must answer in the affirmative to questions such as “Did you work in a building where 30 or more people were cared for?”
Other questions on the survey ask about the employee’s vaccination status, where vaccination occurred, and how long ago the vaccination was received. However, the questionnaire doesn’t stop with these general statistical inquiries. It goes on to ask about the employee’s specific reaction to the vaccine, whether or not he or she had an allergic reaction. The NHSN claims that the information obtained from these surveys will be used to calculate statistics about the facility itself and that they are not interested in the individual employee responses.
For nursing students, the implications of this new law are multifaceted. First, they can expect to fill out the survey if they spend any time in a hospital setting with 30 or more patients. Nursing students in clinical settings will also be required to complete the survey – even if they aren’t responsible for direct patient care.
This may also affect the way hospitals do business and hire new employees in the future. Facilities are already making changes to their operations so that they can better accommodate the CDC and its survey. Since virtually anyone employed by a medical facility will be required to satisfy the questionnaire, larger hospitals will have a difficult time meeting the mandate at first.
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