The 2017-2018 flu season was the most severe flu season since the swine flu pandemic of 2009, and it has been reported that this year’s is arriving early. It is vital for everyone who can get the flu shot to be vaccinated. However, for health care providers, convincing patients to get the flu shot can be challenging.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has come up with these three tips to help healthcare providers recommend the flu vaccine:
1.Greet the patient, confirm the patient’s decision not to get a flu shot based on the nurse’s rooming notes, and then ask the patient for more information on why he or she does not want one, listening carefully to the patient’s response.
2. With the patient’s permission, briefly provide information specific to the patient’s belief or fear. For example, if the patient is worried about getting sick from the flu shot because a family member once developed a cough shortly after getting a flu shot, explain that the flu vaccine is made of killed virus, not live, and cannot make the patient sick. Carefully watch for nonverbal cues of understanding, doubt, or other reactions. (You may also share with them information from the CDC about misconceptions about flu vaccines.)
3. After discussing the information, ask what the patient now thinks about getting a flu shot. Some patients may change their mind and want one, while others will continue to say “no.” Provide a clear medical recommendation for the vaccine but respect the patient’s autonomy to choose. Invite patients who remain reluctant to let you know if they ever change their mind or want additional information, leaving the door open for conversation in the future.
It’s important to convey to your patients that while a flu shot may result in temporary discomfort at the injection site, and there could be a small chance they may still catch the flu even after vaccination, a flu shot will lessen the flu’s severity. Without vaccination, catching the flu can lead to hospitalization. Any protection is better than no protection.