Comment

The never-ending winter pressures

Each year, additional information about preparing for winter pressures is issued for emergency workers, yet often the risks of seasonal flu never go away.

Every year we brace ourselves for winter pressures with many of us feeling as though the pressures never went away. Now we begin our annual cycle of gearing up to cope with another spike in demand for our services and seasonal flu is a contributing factor.

There are stark warnings coming from the southern hemisphere that national influenza activity this season has been at comparable or higher levels than in recent years. Notifications are highest in adults aged 80 or older, with a secondary peak in children aged five to nine.

Flu vaccine drive

The annual drive for nurses and healthcare workers to have the flu vaccine, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is underway. There was an overall improvement in uptake in England in 2016-17, with about 64%

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Every year we brace ourselves for ‘winter pressures’ with many of us feeling as though the pressures never went away. Now we begin our annual cycle of gearing up to cope with another spike in demand for our services – and seasonal flu is a contributing factor.


Warnings have been issues over influenza activity in hospital settings. Picture: iStock

There are stark warnings coming from the southern hemisphere that national influenza activity this season has been at comparable or higher levels than in recent years. Notifications are highest in adults aged 80 or older, with a secondary peak in children aged five to nine.

Flu vaccine drive

The annual drive for nurses and healthcare workers to have the flu vaccine, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is underway. There was an overall improvement in uptake in England in 2016-17, with about 64% of medical staff and of allied health professionals being vaccinated, and 58% of nursing staff. There were similar increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But greater understanding is required about why staff decide against vaccination. Some report that they feel pressured into being vaccinated, which can be viewed not only as unethical but unlawful, too. Consent to receive the vaccination must be given freely without feeling coerced, although many myths and misconceptions about the vaccine still exist and about accessibility to it.

Spreading risk

Last year, after a lot of consideration, I received my flu vaccination for the first time in 15 years of nursing. I see myself as young and healthy, and have never had a cold or flu in my life.  But as I stood in a crowded emergency department, with many cubicles occupied by patients with flu-like illness, I knew the risk of spread was high – to me and to my patients. 

I believe that as healthcare professionals we have a responsibility to protect those we care for, and that extends to our own families. Now that I have taken the step to have the vaccine, it is a practice I am going to continue.


About the author

 

Linsey Sheerin is a clinical coordinator, emergency department at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, and a member of the Emergency Nurse editorial board

 

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