I have not been quiet recently about my opinions on the flu vaccination, I’ve promoted its benefits through social media, the College of Paramedics INSIGHT magazine, spoke about the potential consequences of not having the vaccination at the Emergency Services Show and facilitated vaccination opportunities for attendees at several recent CPD events.
I also feel that I can’t remain quiet either on some of the responses and attitudes I have heard whilst doing all this. The responses look like this…‘It might make me ill and I’ve had too much time off sick already’, ‘I’m not having the flu jab in my own time, I’ll wait until I can get out of getting a job’, ‘I’m not helping the service get a load of cash for hitting targets’, ‘If I get the flu that’s alright cause it means I can go off sick then’. All of these reasons leave me uncomfortable and are difficult to digest, arguably for different reasons but do they highlight a prevailing culture that is not beneficial for staff wellbeing and patient safety.
As registered health professionals, paramedics have a professional obligation to keep themselves healthy and their patients safe. For me, that means contributing to the reduction in the spread of a (to a certain extent) preventable infectious disease that kills thousands in the UK every year. There are good reasons for not having a flu jab but I have not heard any of these voiced recently and they are certainly not those I mention above.
These responses are unpleasant at best and at worst, corrosive. But they are a reflection of a culture that historically has not supported staff to develop, learn, achieve and inspire. I look forward to a time when the behaviours highlighted in the responses above are a thing of the past along with the command and control culture through which they were born, and a time when all ambulance services can achieve flu vaccination uptake numbers to rival the best NHS hospital trusts.
Liz Harris, Head of Professional Standards, College of Paramedics