More than just a shot in the arm: The rewards of widespread vaccination

More than just a shot in the arm: The rewards of widespread vaccination

Farrah Reyes

So much has changed in the span of a year. Last spring, nursing homes were ground zero for COVID-19.                      I remember how hard we worked to protect people when information was changing daily and our efforts to comfort scared and isolated elders. I also remember how afraid we were of taking the virus home with us.                  I changed my clothes and shoes before walking through my front door and the fear still followed me inside.

This spring, residents are enjoying the company of family and friends, infection rates are so low we closed our COVID-positive building, and fear no longer darkens our days. These are the rewards of working together. In a facility for vulnerable elders, everyone is a healthcare worker, from geriatric nurses like me, to the women and men who prepare meals and clean the building. That’s why it’s significant that 80 percent of Hebrew Home staff have chosen to get vaccinated.

I love my work with older adults. They have so much life experience to share and they bring out the best nurse in me. To protect them and myself, I was one of the first staff members to get a vaccine, just days before Christmas.    I trusted the studies, but even for me it was a leap of faith. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had been vaccinated or how it would affect me personally. Thankfully, the side-effects were minimal, and when colleagues saw I was okay they felt more comfortable getting vaccinated.

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When colleagues saw I was okay, they felt

more comfortable getting vaccinated.

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The Hebrew Home also took steps to help staff overcome their hesitation. Our medical director led town hall style meetings inviting questions and responding to their concerns. Staff in different roles, from different backgrounds, and speaking different languages were filmed talking about why they decided to get vaccinated, videos that were widely shared early on. And to lighten a potentially heavy decision, raffle tickets with a chance to win a $50 gift card were offered as a bonus after each shot.

When I read about break-through infections in other nursing homes tied to unvaccinated staff and the restrictions that follow—essentially a return to isolation for elders still recovering from the loneliness of the past year—I’m proud of how we care for one another at the Hebrew Home and our role in ending this pandemic.

Farrah Reyes has worked at the Hebrew Home since 2008 and is currently the Wound Care Manager.