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Flu Shots, Still the Healthy Choice, by Julie Fraser RN

Earlier today, ARNBC participated in the Ministry of Health’s launch of the Annual Provincial Flu Campaign and hope this event will remind all British Columbians to get an annual flu shot.  It’s certainly a great reminder to health professionals that we too need to protect ourselves from influenza.

On October 24, 2013, an arbitrator dismissed the grievance brought by the B.C. Health Sciences Association (HSA) against the B.C. government policy requiring healthcare workers to get a flu shot or wear a mask while caring for patients during flu season.  The arbitrator wrote that, “given the seriousness of influenza, a program that increases immunization rates in the healthcare setting is a reasonable policy.”

ARNBC discussed this policy at length when it was first introduced last year.   We are proud to have been one of the first organizations in British Columbia to recognize that the Ministry’s Flu Policy would protect the health of healthcare providers and patients across the province.

Last year we received many comments to our blogpost, Flu Shots, the Healthy Choice from nurses both for and against mandatory flu shots. That’s one of the advantages of a forum such as this – it allows nurses to share their thoughts and feelings with each another and with our professional association.

Now that the legal discussion of the policy has concluded, nurses have an opportunity to focus on working together to educate individuals and communities about the possible ramifications of a serious influenza outbreak.

(L-R) Geraldine Vance, CEO of BC Pharmacy Association, Registered Nurse, Nubia Martens; VCH Medical Health Officer (and emcee) Dr. Meena Dawar, Minister Lake, VCH Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Patty Daly, Dr. Perry Kendall, President of Association of Registered Nurses of BC Julie Foster, President of BC Pharmacy Association Don Cocar.

Most nurses choose to get a flu shot, simply because we’ve seen what can happen to a healthy person with the flu, never mind someone who is vulnerable.  None of us like to be sick.  And we feel even worse knowing we’ve passed something on to our family, friends and colleagues.   I have talked to many nurses who feel a great deal of personal responsibility. We are fortunate to have some excellent discussion and resource documents published by all three B.C. nursing organizations on the topic of flu shots, including ARNBC’s Statement on the B.C. Flu Policy, the CRNBC’s Practice Standard and the BCNU’s Overview.  The CNA has published a Position Statement and partnered with Immunize Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on the 2013-2014 Flu Campaign, which includes resources and recommendations for nurses and others.  All of these documents support yearly flu shots, although most of us were already making that choice, or at the very least intending to make that choice, long before this new policy came about. Others are more than happy to wear a protective mask when working with patients.

But debate about shots vs. no shots aside, as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the community setting, one of my responsibilities is to educate myself, and the home care nurses I work with about the potential consequences of the flu and talk to them about the big and small things everyone can do to reduce their likelihood of getting sick.  Some of these things are covered regularly by public health with hand-washing campaigns, posters and regular reminders to stay home if you are feeling ill.

These are small things, but they could make a world of difference, and nurses have the knowledge and experience to think outside the box when it comes to solutions such as these.  What are some other practical ways that we can talk to our families and our communities about preventing flu?  While the healthcare organizations move ahead with campaigns and posters and education sessions in our schools, what are the small tips and tricks you have learned and can share with others about preventing flu?  What suggestions could we make that the average consumer might not consider (like those nasty grocery cart handles), but make sense to us as nurses who see the impact of flu every day

Click here to view the government news release from today’s Flu Campaign Launch

Click here to view our photo gallery of the event

Click here to watch footage of the event

To find the nearest flu shot clinic call HealthLink BC at 811 or go to www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu


Julie Fraser, RN, is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the area of Home Care. She has been a registered nurse for more than 15 years and has practiced in a number of different settings from residential care to acute medical and surgical care units, before focusing on community nursing, working in both clinical and educator roles.




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Lori Campbell

Great points Julie! I love the idea of our-of-the-box thinking on strategies for education and community engagement! The finger-wag of "you must" doesn't fly with consumers anymore!

Tina Drew

It's go great to see my association representing nurses on the provincial stage. Way to go ARNBC. This is just fabulous.

Carl Meadows, RN

I really like the perspective around our fudiciary responsibility to ensure clients are protected from us. A few years ago looking at hand washing data in my organization, the evidence revealed that staff were more likely to wash hands following a patient interaction, versus prior to providing patient care. As professionals we owe this to our citizens to ensure they are not going to die as a result of us passing the flu or other infections along. I always say; if this was your mother, what would you expect. Thanks for leading this great discussion.


Congratulations to ARNBC and thank you for taking the ugly out of nursing this week by demonstrating that nurses can be positive, collaborative and conversant about important issues.

Regarding your last questions Julie, at Shopper's they have small hand sanitizers that are encased in a plastic cover and can be attached to knapsacks, key rings, etc. On Halloween, we made grab bags for the kids in my sons grade three class, and we included one of these in each bag. Parents loved it and many of the kids have attached them to their knapsacks. They are kids, so most will use it all in the first few hours, but as parents we can replace the contents, and continue to talk to our children about why we have given them these sanitizers and how they should use them. I know there are some expert opinions that these sanitizers are actually not helpful, but the point is more that having these little containers, even if they're empty, is an opportunity to educate a whole generation about taking responsibility for their own health.

Beth Davis

Thanks, Julie, for this post. We get flu shots to protect ourselves, our families, the patients/clients/residents in our care, and to contribute to the protection of our community at large. As health care providers, we have an opportunity to model healthy choices.

Regarding your last question, if only our fingers would turn fluorescent purple every time we touched a contaminated surface, like elevator buttons, computer keyboards, TV remotes, light switches, doorknobs, handles on public transit, and yes, shopping carts. The visual representation of our ability to transmit germs might get our attention. But since they don't, we need to mentally regard them as contaminated, then develop strategies to make cleaning our hands and the objects part of our routine.


Oh my lord, Beth this is the best idea ever. Can you imagine how embarrassed we'd all be with our purple fingers?

For kids, this would be great. My kids love that mouthwash that turns plague colours so you can see where to brush - similar idea.


Dear Julie and the ARNBC,

This article is very biased and while it may be your position and the position of the ARNBC and the Health Authorities, it does not represent all RN's or healthcare professionals. While I would never discourage anyone from getting the Flu Shot, I would not judge someone who chooses otherwise. I find it an infringement on my personal rights to be forced to get a Flu Shot or be forced to wear a mask as a requirement of my employment.

Would it equally acceptable to force people to wear an arm band to identify that they have had the Flu Shot to inform me that it is acceptable for me to remove my mask to talk with them because I am not a risk to them and can proceed to cough in their general direction?

I am curiously waiting to see how this will be enforced in the workplace. What is going to be considered to be "working with patients"? Will I be expected to wear a mask from the time I start my shift until the end of it? What if I am not exhibiting flu symptoms? When does Flu season begin and end? Does it need to be a regular paper mask or a N95? Will these be provided for me by the employer or do I need to purchase them out of pocket? How often do I need to change it? Will I be allowed to remove it in the breakroom or go to the coffee shop or do I have to wear it at all times that I am on hospital grounds? If I come into the hospital for non work reasons, do I need to wear a mask? If I don't can I be disciplined? Is it a judgement call on my part or is their someone responsible for making these judgements? If someone is responsible for monitoring these things who are they and when will the information be dispersed? I would like some direction on this.

Are we not all carriers of the flu virus regardless of whether we have the Flu Shot or not? Should the focus not be more on education, handwashing and clean healthcare facilities rather than on taking away peoples rights and freedoms and forcing people to get a Flu Shot?



Thanks Jon. I am in agreement with your statements 100%. It 's funny to me how everyone avoids addressing the bigger issue here, which is the unquestionalble infringement on individual constitutional rights. This is a very slippery slope, whether you think flu shots are effective and health giving, or not. First manadatory vaccination, enforced by agencies and institutions that have more on their agenda than your health, and then what? What if the next issue is something you don't agree with, and again limits your right to exercise constitutional freedoms apparently guaranteed to us all? And if you don't think this is already happening, look again, and take your head out of the sand. Once the precendent is set to ignore our Canadian charter of rights, it will be a long battle to actually uphold any value that our so called democratic country was built on. Are people willing to start rewriting the Canadian constitution? It's in place for a reason, even if it appears inconvenient at times to a certain part of the population. We can't cherry pick what suits us - it doesn't work that way.Take a look around at other countries in the world that don't have such a thing. Once we have lost our freedoms that give individual and community protection against tyranny and other not so pleasant forms of domination, we are in serious trouble.


Jon, it's funny how people can read the same thing and interpret it differently. I thought that Julie's whole point was that we need to focus on educating people about the flu shot. The policy has been upheld and I got the sense that Julie was hoping to move the conversation forward to talk about education and how nurses can use what we have seen and learned to come up with even more and better ideas for educating our families and friends.

Linda von Tettenborn

Flu is one of our major seasonal public health issues. I did view the video clip, and was pleased to see ARNBC, and Julie Fraser as President, involved in the BC government public campaign. I have one concern that I’d like to see addressed consistently within our ARNBC publicity opportunities. There was no mention at all within the ARNBC statement that RN’s have been providing immunizations as part of their role as community health nurses (and in other situations) for decades. The RN who was immunizing the dog therapy worker(identified in the clip) was not named or identified as an RN. The thrust of the BC Pharmacy Association was on their new role in providing immunizations and the number of pharmacists certified to do so. If we agree that the public doesn’t know the broad range of what nurses do, we need to make sure we take advantage of all the opportunities available to educate people with whom we come in contact. It might be helpful, too, to include reference/links to the current certification processes in BC for immunization.

Now to follow this up with collaborative efforts in addressing need for immunizations for other diseases such as measles and whooping cough, and the role of ‘herd immunity’.


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