Employment health requirements for medical professionals – why?
As a nurse, you may have questions about why healthcare facilities are requiring vaccinations and tests for certain illnesses as a condition of employment. This has raised issues about the infringement of the rights of healthcare workers.
For hospitals and medical centers, the protection of patient health and safety is the most urgent consideration. So, hospitals need to balance the rights of employees with the best interests of patients. The reasoning behind such testing and vaccination requirements is that healthcare workers are at a greater risk for getting sick and passing illnesses on to patients. And it may be more difficult for patients to recover from an illness. Because of this, the testing and vaccinations become a critical issue for the prevention of illness.
Spreading the flu virus in a hospital, as well as other contagious illnesses, can pose big patient care risks. Patients who have long-term or chronic medical conditions can have serious complications if they get the flu. A person with the flu can infect others before or after experiencing symptoms, according to the Center for Disease Control. Moreover, someone infected with the flu virus might never even experience symptoms and, without even knowing it, pass the virus to other people.
For things such as the influenza vaccination, experts argue that voluntary efforts at hospitals are not enough to handle the unique risks to patients and do little to increase the number of people who get the vaccine. Figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) back this up. During the 2010-2011 flu season, HHS figures show that about 64 percent of healthcare workers got flu shots. During the 2009-2010 season, about 62 percent got the shots. But in facilities where the vaccination was required for the 2010-2011 season, that number jumped to almost 99 percent of all healthcare workers. HHS also has a webpage (www.flu.gov) dedicated to educating healthcare workers about flu vaccinations.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee has advised hospitals that cannot achieve a 90 percent vaccination rate on a voluntary basis to strongly consider making it mandatory. Other vaccines, such as measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and varicella vaccine, are already required by many healthcare facilities, as is annual tuberculin skin testing.
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