"We are not making it mandatory," says Dohmann. "The issue is allowing people to protect their right to choose whether they want to take it or not. We will be strongly encouraging them to do so. I see our role as the employer is to make sure they're as educated as we can get them to be, that we give them the information so they can make an educated decision."
Some organizations are restricting caregivers who have not received the vaccine from direct patient contact. Other organizations have considered issues such as whether pregnant nurses should not care for H1N1 infected patients.
Dohmann says her organization has chosen not to go down that path. "We're supposed to be practicing universal precautions on every patient anyway. Are we suddenly going to say now for flu we're going to treat it differently?"
Dohmann remembers when universal precautions were first identified. "Patients can always have something that you don't want to catch. And so the best way for you to protect yourself and other patients is to follow universal precautions. And so that's where we spend much more time and effort."
Dohmann advises that hospitals should focus on hand washing and increase reminders for clinicians to coach each other and monitor one another's compliance.
Nursing leaders can provide employees with education about H1N1 and the vaccine in many different ways, such as articles and quick tips in newsletters, on the Internet, and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Dohmann notes that the gradual delivery of the vaccines may even prove to be a good thing. As the first round of people are vaccinated, those who were initially concerned will see few side effects and generally good results—and hopefully be the first standing in line for the next batch of supplies.