Recently, our hospitals have started administering Covid-19 vaccination to our healthcare workers. This should come as fantastic news, as it would seem that a very valuable protection against Covid-19 is being made available. However, hospitals are having to quickly develop policies, practices and initiatives for distribution, all while treating above census numbers of very ill patients.
At least some systems are not including their contracted staff, and that is short-sighted. Temporary providers, travel nurses, immigrant providers, all are vital to the delivery of care within the health system and they and their staffing firms need to be part of the discussions as as healthcare facilities formulate plans, policies and practices for vaccine administration.
Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide, according to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. These numbers relate to only the registered nurse portion of our healthcare delivery system and do not include many other providers, such as patient care technicians, respiratory therapists, dietary, med tech, etc.
There are an estimated 25,000 working travel nursing jobs in the US and about 340 US travel nurse companies. And In 2018, more than 2.6 million immigrants, including 314,000 refugees, were employed as healthcare workers, with 1.5 million of them working as doctors, registered nurses, and pharmacists.
Here are some common scenarios that must be considered in vaccination distribution plans and policies based on the number of staffing contracts throughout the US healthcare system:
- Travel or international nurse(s) may be starting assignments after administration of current staff has occurred
- Travel or international nurse(s) may start their vaccine protocol, but assignment may end prior to receiving a second next dose
- Vaccine may have started prior to staff coming to current assignment; and what if dose #1 of the vaccine given at a previous location was the “other” vaccine?
- What if the nurse initially declines, but changes his/her mind?
- And how will the vaccine documentation be shared with the employers of contract staff?
Contingency staff and the agencies they work for will need to have these types of questions answered prior to accepting an assignment. Communication during this time is critical. Information that is shared with “core” staff also should be shared with all healthcare workers at the facility. Designate a resource as the point of contact who is available for partner agencies to speak with to answer questions or help facilitate the vaccination, documentation and communication process.
Supplemental clinical staff must not be left behind as we execute the vaccination plans – they are vital to patient care and they are vital to the healthcare system.