Monday, January 14, 2013

Health care worker, heal thyself

Just caught a quick TV news story about a nurse at a Kaiser hospital in Alameda County who refuses to get a flu shot this season. (Unfortunately, I can't find an actual Web reference anywhere; it would appear this is too small a matter for anyone but the TV station (and me) to care about. Ah well.)

A little background: according to a 20 December 2012 article by Katharine Mieszkowski for SFGate (and originally from the Bay Citizen), health care workers in several Bay Area counties have the option of getting flu vaccinations or wearing a surgical mask. The article notes, "Some people may not get the shots for medical reasons, such as those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs." But that's not why this nurse declined. She said that it's her right not to get it. However, she doesn't want to wear the mask, either; she claims she doesn't go to work when she's sick and she washes her hands regularly.

This sounds like one ass-ignorant nurse.

The Mieszkowski article — again, published last month, long before tonight's story — quoted Erika Jenssen, communicable-disease programs manager for Contra Costa Health Services:

Jenssen noted that it's possible to spread the flu to others before exhibiting symptoms.

"You, as a health-care worker, could be spreading the flu to patients you're caring for, even if you're vigilant about staying home when you're sick," she said.

Come on: even I, who have never worked in health care, know that a person is infectious before he exhibits symptoms. What is this nurse's excuse for not knowing that?

Furthermore, how can she be trusted not to pass along her irrational prejudices to patients, further compromising the overall efficacy of the vaccination program this year and down the line?

I am pissed that this demonstrably stupid and bullheaded nurse is entrusted with attending to the health and well-being of others. If she won't get vaccinated and won't wear the mask, let her be fired. She is a disgrace to her profession.

(In scratching around for more on this nurse, I ran across a blog posting about 8 nurses at an Indiana hospital who were fired for refusing to get a flu shot. The comments from those who support the nurses who were fired are remarkable. The supporters are uniformly wrapped up in an impenetrable web of fantasy, delusion and faulty logic.)

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