Declining The Flu Shot: How It Impacts Travel Nurses
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
It is that time of year again. The time of year that medical professionals dread. The time of year when visitor restrictions pop up, precaution signs are on almost every door and we go through hand sanitizer like candy.
It’s flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the frontrunner for flu cases this year is influenza type A. There hasn’t been a crazy surge of cases just yet, but based on the numbers flu A is probably going to be the virus causing us the most trouble this year.
Luckily, flu A is one of the strains covered in this year’s flu shot, which means if you got vaccinated you should avoid a stint with its nasty symptoms.
Vaccinations can be a hot topic for many people, especially those wary of them. As a healthcare worker myself I am always astounded by the number of fellow clinicians who are hesitant to get a flu shot. Personally, I am all for the extra protection offered by getting vaccinated.
As travelers, the choice to not get a flu shot could impact you differently than if you were a full-time employee.
1. It may impact your ability to get a job.
- A lot of hospitals are moving toward blanket requirements for the flu shot. This essentially means that employees no longer have the right to refuse to be vaccinated and wear a mask instead. By not getting the flu shot as a traveler you could be automatically out of the running for certain positions.
2. Your resume could get passed up for someone else.
- Even if a facility does have an option for employees to opt out of flu shot administration, they may prefer to hire travelers who have had the vaccination.
- Because it is easier to hire travelers, managers may simply move past a travel nurse candidate who refuses to get the required vaccination. The travel nurse market moves so quickly, there will likely be other submissions for the job who are willing to receive the flu shot.
3. Calling out could impact your contract status.
- In the event that you do not get vaccinated and get sick as a result, consider the implications on your contract. As travelers, we are certainly within our right to call in, but we do tend to be highly scrutinized when we do.
- The unfortunate truth about travel healthcare is that contract cancellation is a real thing, and an extended amount of time called off could impact a facility’s decision on who to cancel if they have to terminate contracts early.
4. Stress can impact your ability to stay healthy.
- Travelers are under a different sort of stress than full-time staff. We are constantly worried about our next contract, our housing is a bit trickier, and we are away from most of our support system.
- All of these factors add up and can result in more stress on our bodies, which in turn makes it harder for our immune system to stay healthy.
- It is imperative we do everything we can to protect ourselves from getting sick, including vaccinating when it is an option.
5. If you do get sick, you likely will not have PTO or sick leave to help cover expenses.
- In my experience, the majority of travel staffing companies do not offer any sort of sick leave or paid time off in the event that you have to miss work. Hospitals pay agencies based on the number of hours worked, so if you do not work the company doesn’t get paid.
- If you choose to decline a flu shot and get sick as a result, this may not only impact your health but it could lose you money.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons healthcare workers should be vaccinated during flu season. I could get into patient safety, immunocompromised individuals, or straight-up science, but there just isn’t enough space in this week’s article. In the end, if you choose to not get vaccinated it can mean more than just a few days of sickness.
Travelers often have to comply with more rules and tests than permanent staff because the reality is, if you don’t want to follow policy, there is likely another traveler who wants that position who will. Influenza this time of year is serious business, and if you choose not to protect yourself and your patients by getting vaccinated, you should be aware that there are more ways than one that it can make it harder for you to stay employed.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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