The COVID vaccine for our youngest students is about to become available. I have been writing about how promoting vaccine confidence will be a heavy lift for school nurses, but also one of our most important roles. I never imagined though that one of the barriers would be within our own ranks. Over the past few days I have noted a concerning trend emerging of school nurses distancing themselves from one of our duties to care; educating families about vaccine-preventable diseases.
We have played a critical and pivotal role during the pandemic. Providing COVID vaccine education is included in our duty to care, the foundation of ethics in nursing practice. While we all have a right to our personal opinions, that stance should not interfere with our public-facing role in providing health education to our school community.
What have I seen or been told that is so concerning? One example is a discussion I had with a teacher in another school district who shared that her school nurse recommended that she wait to schedule her daughter’s COVID shot because it is experimental. The school nurse told her that she would never allow her children to be vaccinated. The teacher was confused and concerned and came to me for a deeper discussion.
The school nursing message boards illustrate more concerning stances that some school nurses are taking, drawing lines in the sand that they will not discuss the vaccine with parents and will refer them to their pediatrician. Our actions have consequences, by refusing to discuss the vaccine, that can be interpreted as being against it.
School nurses have influence in the success or failure of COVID vaccine acceptance from parents. When someone says “my school nurse told me…” those words have weight and we must be intentional in our discussions. We are at the threshold of moving to a place where COVID may be in our rearview mirror, but not without vaccine acceptance. We have a duty to give facts, provide education, and have opinion-free discussions with our students, staff and parents. We are the only healthcare representative at school, that heightens our duty to provide public health information, especially during the pandemic. This is our moment to help parents make informed decisions based on science and evidence, not opinions.
Here are two informative articles that I will be sharing with my families and school staff:
One final article about our nursing code of ethics:
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), the nursing code of ethics is a guide for “carrying out nursing responsibilities in a manner consistent with quality in nursing care and the ethical obligations of the profession.” Ethics, in general, are the moral principles that dictate how a person will conduct themselves. Ethical values are essential for ALL healthcare workers, especially nurses.