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Nurses Fired for Refusing Flu Shot

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Nurses Fired for Refusing Flu Shot

By SYDNEY LUPKIN | ABC News - 20 hrs ago
  • Nurses Fired for Refusing Flu Shot (ABC News)
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    ABC News - Nurses Fired for Refusing Flu Shot (ABC News)

An Indiana hospital has fired eight employees, including at least three veteran nurses, after they refused mandatory flu shots, stirring up controversy over which should come first: employee rights or patient safety. The hospital imposed mandatory vaccines, responding to rising concerns about the spread of influenza.

Ethel Hoover wore all black on her last day of work as a nurse in the critical care unit at Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital. She said she was in "mourning" because she would have been at the hospital 22 years in February, and she's only called out of work four or five times in her whole career , she said.

"This is my body. I have a right to refuse the flu vaccine," Hoover, 61, told ABCNews.com. "For 21 years, I have religiously not taken the flu vaccine, and now you're telling me that I believe in it."

More than 15,100 flu cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since Sept. 30, including 16 pediatric deaths. Indiana's flu activity level is considered high, according to the CDC, which last month announced that the flu season came a month earlier than usual.

Click here to read how flu has little to do with weather.

When Hoover first heard about the mandate, she said she didn't realize officials would take it so seriously. She said she filed two medical exemptions, a religious exemption and two appeals, but they were all denied. The Dec. 15 flu shot deadline came and went. Hoover's last day of employment was Dec. 21.

Fellow nurse Kacy Davis said she and her colleagues were "horrified" over Hoover's firing, calling her their "go-to" nurse and a "preceptor."

"It was a good place to work," Hoover said. "We've worked together all these years. We're like a family."

The hospital said in a statement that it implemented the mandate to promote patient safety based on recommendations from the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It announced the mandate in September. Of the hospital's 26,000 employees statewide, 95 percent complied. That means 1,300 employees did not comply, but only eight were fired.

"IU Health's top priority is the health and wellbeing of our patients," said hospital spokeswoman Whitney Ertel. "Participation in the annual Influenza Patient Safety Program is a condition of employment with IU Health for the health and safety of the patients that we serve, and is therefore required."

The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone older than six months of age. Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said hospital patients are especially vulnerable to flu complications because their bodies are already weakened.

"I cannot think of a reason for any health care professional to decline influenza immunization that's valid," said Schaffner, a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, adding that people with egg allergies may have to avoid the flu shot to prevent anaphylactic shock, but even that hurdle has been remedied. The Food and Drug Administration approved an egg-free vaccine in November.

Schaffner said invalid excuses to avoid the shot include being afraid of needles and simply promising to stay home when they're sick. Patients now have the option of a vaccine nasal spray if they want to avoid needles. And since flu victims become contagious before they start to feel sick, they can get patients sick even if they stay home when they have symptoms.

Over the last several years, hospitals have been moving toward mandatory vaccinations because many only have 60 percent vaccination rates, Schaffner said. He is leading an effort for a similar mandate at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Nurses in particular tend to be the most reluctant to get vaccinated among health care workers, Schaffner said, citing his opinion.

"There seems to be a persistent myth that you can get flu from a flu vaccine among nurses," he said. "They subject themselves to more influenza by not being immunized, and they certainly do not participate in putting patient safety first."

In October 2011, Vanderbilt broke the world record for number of vaccines administered in an eight-hour period in an event called Flulapalooza. From 6:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., they vaccinated 12,647 people. By that evening, more than 14,000 people had been vaccinated, and there were no severe adverse reactions, he said.

But still, Hoover's lawyer, Alan Phillips, says his client had the right to refuse her flu shot under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice.

"If your personal beliefs are religious in nature, then they are a protected belief," Phillips said.

Phillips, who is based out of North Carolina, has made a name for himself fighting for employees' rights to get out of mandated flu shots, but he has never needed to go to court. Although he usually handles a couple dozen health care workers per year, he had 150 this fall in 25 states.

Dr. Damon Raskin, an internist with his own practice in the Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, said hospitals should mandate flu vaccines as a matter of public safety. The flu can lead to complications like pneumonia and death, said Raskin, who is also affiliated with the Cliffside Malibu Addiction Rehabilitation Center.

"I think if the health care worker has some problem with religious faith then perhaps during flu season, they shouldn't do that job," Raskin said, suggesting that the worker do something administrative instead during flu season. "It's not fair to the patient. The people who are most at risk are in the hospital."

by on Jan. 4, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Replies (151-158):
stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Jan. 5, 2013 at 1:38 AM
1 mom liked this

I know that it is a "craop shoot."  However the odds are better than in a game of craps.  If they succeed in guessing at least the several worst common strains than it is worth getting.  The part of my post that you cut out, says my experience just this week with the flu.  I could have avoided the suffering and dangerous high temps in my youngest, I could have gone to work this week instead of spending $200 on daycare and NOT making any money (in my daughter's preschool, you pay weekly, whether you are able to attend as scheduled or not) and not pissed off my employer who relies on me (small business) to do certain things every week.

So yeah, I would have gotten the shot for me & the kids, like I usually do.

Quoting ReadWriteLuv:

Because the flu shot isn't going to protect you from every strain out there. It's a crap shoot. The CDC will tell you it's a crap shoot. It doesn't protect against every strain. It's an unnecessary vaccine, unless they can come up with a vaccine that protects you from each of the thousands of flu strains that effect the general populus every year.

I've been in healthcare for nearly 9 years now, working in both very large urban hospitals, rural clinics, and now a private office, and I've never had a flu shot during my career. Never. The only time I've ever had the flu in 9 years is when I contracted H1N1 from a patient at the hospital, before they had a vaccine. My track record is pretty good. 


Quoting stacymomof2:
Why anyone would not get a flu shot is beyond me.  Everyone says they have the flu until they actually GET the real flu and not just a nasty cold.  I think a lot of people who say they have the flu are just dealing with a cold.  When you actually have the flu you run dangerous fevers and can't get out of bed, your body aches and you likely can't eat or even drink water without throwing up.  If you just feel crappy it's probably a cold or other virus.



Arroree
by Ruby Member on Jan. 5, 2013 at 1:44 AM

The one year we tried to do the flu shot, me and our toddler son got it, it covered Influenza strains B and C, but not the big bad nasty one that year A. So of course a few days later our son and I were both in the ER being given meds and IV fluids when we caught Influenza A.

No more flu shots for us unless we absolutely have to.

Quoting ReadWriteLuv:

They never have been able to. There are thousands of flu strains, the CDC just picks the one they think will be most prevalent every year, it's always been a crap shoot. I've never gotten a flu shot in my adult life, and I never will. I don't get them for my daughter either.

My husband, however, is in the military and is required to get a flu shot or be reprimanded severely.

Quoting pvtjokerus:

Wasn't it just recently that the CDC couldn't even get the correct vaccination for the flu strain that was out there?



PurdueMom
by Sherri on Jan. 5, 2013 at 10:07 AM

But did you come down with strains B or C that year?  ; )

Quoting Arroree:

The one year we tried to do the flu shot, me and our toddler son got it, it covered Influenza strains B and C, but not the big bad nasty one that year A. So of course a few days later our son and I were both in the ER being given meds and IV fluids when we caught Influenza A.

No more flu shots for us unless we absolutely have to.

Quoting ReadWriteLuv:

They never have been able to. There are thousands of flu strains, the CDC just picks the one they think will be most prevalent every year, it's always been a crap shoot. I've never gotten a flu shot in my adult life, and I never will. I don't get them for my daughter either.

My husband, however, is in the military and is required to get a flu shot or be reprimanded severely.

Quoting pvtjokerus:

Wasn't it just recently that the CDC couldn't even get the correct vaccination for the flu strain that was out there?




Sherri

KittyLicking.gif picture by wer4pu
lancet98
by Silver Member on Jan. 5, 2013 at 10:40 AM

 

I agree.   Her patients don't pay for her choices.

I worked in a hospital - rule was get shots, or get fired.

I wanted the job.

So I got the shots.   But  I would have gotten them anyway - and this way they were all free.   actually I thought it was a good deal.

Further, all this nonsense about how 'bad' the flu vac is and how it makes people get flu, doesn't work, is all bs anyway, same with the bs about the flu not being 'a big deal' to get, for anyone and everyone.
 

Quoting talia-mom:

Her job required it.  She refused to do it.   She lost her job for not following policy.   Now she is free not to have the flu shot without her potentially infecting other people that are seriously ill.

Quoting pvtjokerus:

The flu shot is not an "end all."  What is the difference of getting the flu shot and then getting sick from it vs. getting the flu and getting sick from it?

Quoting talia-mom:

She works with seriously ill or injured people.   If she can't follow procedure, she should be fired regardless of how long she has been there.

 

 

 

Bonneata
by on Jan. 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM

I visited my very very premature cousin in the nice. I don't believe you. The hospital hear wont allow you in for any reason sick staff, visitor, or health care provider. The flu would kill those babies. Sounds like the hospitals you work at have staffing issues if they are calling nurses and docs in sick. Scary thought. 



Quoting ReadWriteLuv:

Everyday newborns are exposed to people who go to work sick. I've been to the NICU sick. You just wear a mask. 

Quoting Bonneata:


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

 Many, many hospitals are mandating this.  I get it every year.  It is a patient safety issue.  Imagine you had a newborn in the NICU. Would you want your nurse not getting the flu shot?

No I wouldn't want a newborn any where near a nurse, physician or any health care provider that didn't get a flu shot. Mandantory flu shot or your fired sounds good to me. Patient safety should always be a top priority in hospitals! 



ReadWriteLuv
by Silver Member on Jan. 5, 2013 at 3:28 PM
Ok, you don't have to believe me. Just telling you my experience. The nurses may not come in sick, but the support staff may. The NICU needs xray techs, respiratory therapists, laundry and kitchen staff and chaplains too, in addition to all of the other family members of the other babies in the NICU as well. They just wear a mask, a gown, and wash their hands.. It's standard precautions with a very sick little one anyway.

Quoting Bonneata:

I visited my very very premature cousin in the nice. I don't believe you. The hospital hear wont allow you in for any reason sick staff, visitor, or health care provider. The flu would kill those babies. Sounds like the hospitals you work at have staffing issues if they are calling nurses and docs in sick. Scary thought. 




Quoting ReadWriteLuv:

Everyday newborns are exposed to people who go to work sick. I've been to the NICU sick. You just wear a mask. 

Quoting Bonneata:



Quoting Debmomto2girls:

 Many, many hospitals are mandating this.  I get it every year.  It is a patient safety issue.  Imagine you had a newborn in the NICU. Would you want your nurse not getting the flu shot?

No I wouldn't want a newborn any where near a nurse, physician or any health care provider that didn't get a flu shot. Mandantory flu shot or your fired sounds good to me. Patient safety should always be a top priority in hospitals! 



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Salsacookies
by Member on Jan. 5, 2013 at 4:19 PM
1 mom liked this

If you get the flu after you've gotten the flu shot, you got sick with a strain that you weren't vaxed against. the CDC only makes vaccines for the 3 or 4 most prevalent strains. There are numerous other strains that don't get vaxed against, but you have the potential to get.

Quoting pvtjokerus:

The flu shot is not an "end all."  What is the difference of getting the flu shot and then getting sick from it vs. getting the flu and getting sick from it?

Quoting talia-mom:

She works with seriously ill or injured people.   If she can't follow procedure, she should be fired regardless of how long she has been there.



pvtjokerus
by Platinum Member on Jan. 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Let me tell that to the two that I know that got really sick after taking the recent flu shot......

Quoting Salsacookies:

If you get the flu after you've gotten the flu shot, you got sick with a strain that you weren't vaxed against. the CDC only makes vaccines for the 3 or 4 most prevalent strains. There are numerous other strains that don't get vaxed against, but you have the potential to get.

Quoting pvtjokerus:

The flu shot is not an "end all."  What is the difference of getting the flu shot and then getting sick from it vs. getting the flu and getting sick from it?

Quoting talia-mom:

She works with seriously ill or injured people.   If she can't follow procedure, she should be fired regardless of how long she has been there.

 



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