There is a common saying in the medical world: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, and it is often very true. Why get sick and lose time, money, and energy feeling lousy whenever you can just […]
There is a common saying in the medical world: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, and it is often very true. Why get sick and lose time, money, and energy feeling lousy whenever you can just take some prevention and never get sick in the first place? While not all preventions fully protect you, and you can still fall under the weather for various other reasons, prevention is still hugely important in the medical field.
Many nurses agree, but they also find a surprising amount of pushback to the idea of vaccines and other forms of disease prevention. It’s interesting to take a look at why this occurs the way it does, and some of the ways that nurses can challenge misconceptions about vaccines and disease prevention. The more that qualified nurses can positively influence public perception of disease prevention, the better.
Why aren’t people taking disease prevention seriously?
Some people just don’t like doctors and hospitals. This can be because of past problems causing fear of hospitals and doctors, a fear of actually being severely sick and not wanting to hear about it from a doctor, or a worry about being diagnosed with a life-altering condition that can change how people live their lives.
Many people have fears of both being ill and seeking the treatment they need to feel better, and it can lead to a paralysis that prevents them from going to the doctor at all. Instead, they just decide to wait and see if the problem goes away on its own.
However, this often makes the problem at hand worse and whenever people finally do decide to go to the doctor, they experience a worse diagnosis. This then reinforces the belief that doctors and nurses only deliver bad news and that makes them much less likely to seek out medical care in the future. However, if these patients had gone to get medical care when they first started getting the symptoms or pain of their illness, the processes of treatment and recovery would be a lot less intrusive.
Additionally, for many people in many situations, it is far easier to act whenever an outside trigger prompts you to take it. Many people are complacent about their health, and only take action when instructed to do so by a professional.
What about vaccinations?
Some people are against vaccinations for various reasons. A lot of the reasons are pseudoscience and misinformation spawned by both sides of the debate for and against vaccines, while others are legitimate cultural and religious objections to vaccines. The problem of misinformation makes the science on vaccines seem uncertain, making it harder to figure out what to trust.
Finally, some people have bad experiences with healthcare and health providers or have taken vaccines and have still gotten sick with the illness, and simply mistrust doctors, nurses, and vaccines. This mistrust and skepticism is often passed down through families and friend groups. While the reasons for not seeking preventative care or getting a vaccine might be valid, nurses play an important role in ensuring that the community is fully and properly informed before making decisions about their health.
How should nurses handle vaccines and disease prevention?
With diseases and viruses becoming deadlier and deadlier every year, and constantly evolving to be resistant to various forms of treatment, nurses need to make sure that a majority of people get vaccinated in order to provide immunity for those who are the most at risk. But how do they handle dealing with people who are hostile to getting a vaccine?
First and foremost, the job of a nurse is not to enforce a vaccine on anyone. The rules for required vaccines and preventative treatments are done by groups such as the CDC and other government agencies, and it isn’t a nurse’s job to enforce them. Instead, they just need to be prepared to give information.
Often, the biggest reason people are resisting vaccines is that they are filled with too much misinformation. It is the role of nurses on the front line to ensure that everyone has access to proper, reliable medical information. Nurses should encourage their patients to get information from reliable sources about vaccines, and if they read all that information and still have questions, then they can ask.
Nurses have authority over health and healthcare, and it is up to them to use that authority to ensure that they are providing the public with accurate information. They can also talk about and dispel any misinformation that is found online and present the real facts. Nurses can educate in both group and one-on-one settings.
The danger of mistrust in healthcare
One of the biggest dangers that people will run into whenever it comes to health and the choices they need to make in order to become healthy is the wide array of misinformation. Social media and even news outlets and television shows can all present different viewpoints on health topics, and almost all of these outlets have followers and agendas of their own. They might be spreading information that is tailored toward what their followers want to hear and is not necessarily medically true.
Additionally, this leads to confirmation bias, where people will continually search for information until they find the information that proves their preconceptions correct. All of the conflicting information about vaccines and healthcare can cause people to mistrust health treatments that could be incredibly important and beneficial to their health.
Health mistrust can even cause damage to the relationships between nurses and their patients because patients have been exposed to so much information that the information the nurses are telling them is just more noise they are forced to tune out. This mistrust can again lead to people making poor decisions and not seeking out the medical care they need until it is too late.
This can especially be difficult because the information that is spread on the internet, as well as the information that is false or misleading, can be extremely hard to control. Once something gets out there into the world, whether it is true or false, it is out there and can’t be taken back. If it gains a following and starts to become popular and spread through word of mouth, then it can become out of hand and present a major issue for healthcare providers.
For example, one of the biggest issues that many people have with vaccinations is that they contain the disease that will make you sick and that you are trying to protect your body against. For example, a vaccine for a flu virus will contain a flu virus because your body needs to be taught that that virus is an enemy and needs to prepare itself to fight back against it.
If someone who has been vaccinated (and has prepared their body against the virus) gets sick with the virus, often, the resulting period of illness will be less severe than if the virus was ravaging an unprepared body. However, many people see getting injected intentionally with a disease as a risk.
But vaccines don’t make you sick, and with a little more information, many people might see how and why vaccines work the way they do and may be more inclined to take one. Nurses can provide that information and can make sure that people are kept safe. Nurses can even access and share information regarding rigorous vaccine testing, that may help convince skeptics that vaccines are safe.
Nurses should put their patients first, and try to meet them halfway
It isn’t uncommon for nurses themselves to have reservations about vaccines just like their patients do. Some nurses and even medical professionals don’t agree with every medical vaccine or piece of preventative medicine that hits the market, and that is okay. But as a nurse, it isn’t your job to force someone to take a vaccination or get prevention for an illness. Instead, you need to focus on what will keep the patient healthy.
For example, if you are working with patients who are susceptible to a virus or illness and will be very vulnerable to it if they aren’t protected against the virus with everything your hospital has and more, then you should give them all the information that you can about why the prevention is worth it.
Additionally, nurses should try to meet their patients halfway. Some patients will object to a vaccine on religious grounds (believing them to be morally objectionable, or by believing that their deity will heal them), while others might have a cultural objection. While it can be frustrating, nurses mustn’t be afraid to try and at least understand where they are coming from. This way, they can approach the situation with empathy and urge patients to at least seek out additional opinions before making their final choice.
Learn about how to talk with patients by getting educated
As a nurse, you will encounter a lot of different patients and scenarios during your time, no matter where you are practicing and what field of nursing you are in. It can be a bit overwhelming for many nurses to figure out how to navigate all of these scenarios without compromising the care that they are giving to their patients. However, education can help with this.
Getting a distance nursing degree from the University of Indianapolis can teach you how to focus on holistic healthcare and how to provide healthcare to both individuals and communities. Additionally, you will learn skills based on promoting health and preventing injuries for your patients and their communities, and all of these skills will help you whenever you enter the professional nursing practice of your choice.
Often, the problems of resistance to disease prevention and vaccinations have taken root in the community, and while you can do a lot of good changing individual minds, you can also focus on providing community-focused information campaigns to make sure that entire communities are shown all the benefits that taking care of themselves can bring.
Always take a patient-centered approach
All of the talk, confusion, and misinformation can be extremely hard to deal with, especially when you as a nurse can see the first-hand effects of people both getting treated and not getting treated. As a nurse, your job is to provide information and ensure that you are doing the best you can to make people as healthy as they can be.
Focusing on the patient and doing your best in the moment to provide them with the information that they need while also keeping them as healthy as they can be is one of the best ways to make sure that they and the community are better off because of your work. So don’t be afraid to focus on health and doing what you and the patient both agree is best for them.
Education is key. Share information, watch people use that information to make decisions, and then watch them live healthier and happier lives with their risk of disease lowered.