As flu season is beginning to creep around the corner, the flu shot is right behind it, armed with a syringe full of a preventative vaccination to keep the illness at bay.
While some students float the idea of vaccination around their brain, other students were required to have the flu shot by Nov. 1. Getting a flu shot is mandatory for Plattsburgh State nursing students before they begin their clinical rotations.
A clinical rotation is the time when nursing students get practical experience in hospitals. In PSUC’s case, the nursing students spend their time at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.
Associate Nursing Professor Lisa Wells said it is important for students to receive the flu shot in order for them to take care of themselves and the patients they take care of.
“The flu is a terrible thing,” Wells said. “For someone who is already compromised, if they get the flu they’re more compromised, mainly the elderly and the young.”
It is CVPH’s policy that nursing students receive the flu shot before working in the hospital. If they choose not to get the shot, they are required to wear a mask whenever they are in patient care areas.
For students who may have certain allergies to things such as eggs or egg whites, there are alternative strands of the shot available.
Wells said she hasn’t seen any students this year who have opted out of the vaccination, but it’s their choice to do so, and she understands that, as long they use a mask to protect the patients. People may refuse the shot because of religious reasons, allergies or personal choice.
She said refusing the shot may be a hindrance for some students with certain patients. “It’s hard to communicate and develop a relationship with your patient if your face is covered with a mask,” Wells said.
Nursing student Alice Cohen agrees that a mask might alter communication with patients. She said she appreciates the shot requirement because it ensures safety, and the “flu season hits really hard here.”
Cohen said while the shot is for personal safety, it also creates security, safety and comfortably for patients.
“The mask can be a barrier. Not just a germ barrier, but a barrier for contact and communication.”
Cohen explained the act of “herd immunity,” which is an immunity when a significant portion of a population gets a vaccination, which ultimately protects the smaller portion who did not get vaccinated.
“They would be considered safe, but that’s not always the case, especially in a big college community,” she said.
She said the flu shot is successful most of the time, but it can be a guess. The Center for Disease Control strands together variations of genes they think will hit people that upcoming flu season.
“Your arm may be sore for a day or so, but it goes away,” Cohen said. “You might get a mild version of the flu but not the whole flu, or the flu shot does nothing and you get the whole thing — it’s hit or miss.”
Associate Professor of Nursing Wendy Sayward said she wouldn’t refuse the vaccination because she knows the value of the vaccine and its importance to public health.
Nursing students are allotted only a few absences for their classes — any more than that and it could jeopardize their grades. Sayward said if they have the flu shot and did get the flu, it would hopefully be a lightened, shortened version, so they wouldn’t lose as much clinical time where attendance is mandatory.
She said it’s of the greatest importance for the patients. “We don’t want to bring anything that might put our clients at risk,” Sayward said. “Clients in the hospital are usually stressed and have altered immune systems — that places them at greater risk to catch illnesses.”
She said by the time students start clinical, they have taken classes such as Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Biochemistry, where they learn the value of protecting oneself against viruses or bacteria.
“I believe that’s probably why students don’t refuse the immunizations and why they gladly and willingly get vaccinated.”
Cohen said there are free resources for all students who want to be vaccinated. Flu shots are available at the Health Center and CVPH hospital.
Email Brittany Shew at firstname.lastname@example.org.