The five musts every Nurse Practitioner should know when talking about the Delta variant and vaccines
Are you equipped to clarify misinformation about the Delta Variant and vaccines?
One of the expectations patients have for their healthcare providers is to be knowledgeable on hot topics or be able to direct them to credible sources to guide their health decisions. With the desire to be the first to publish health information, many reputable platforms and unqualified individuals have shared misformation elevating the anxiety of the community. Their information has been subjective mainly providing a narrative to support how people feel sparking the misinformation effect.
Misinformation Effect and COVID19
The family and friends whose loved ones were counted in the 375,000 deaths, in 2020, due to COVID19 will always have the memory of this deadly virus. Similarly, many people who recovered from hospitalizations will never forget the virus because they are living with COVID19 complications. Even more, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists to name a few can’t unsee the trauma from seeing so many deaths. The wearing of masks, physical (social) distancing and vaccinations played a major role in slowing the spread of the virus as well as deaths from it. Unfortunately, this record that many live with is missing from the memory of those who object to all three proven measures that have slowed the curve. Social media memes and non-reputable dialogue have created a new memory which most likely is the root of misinformation. Misinformation that is not corrected influences people to make decisions without properly being informed.
Before any healthcare provider engages in a conversation about COVID19 here are a few things to remember:
- Get back to the basics. Patient education, a form of primary prevention, is the basic measure any NP can take to prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID19. During patient education, providers build a relationship with patients and learn more about their health habits. This creates trust in the provider and their recommendations.
- Getting vaccinated is not a political issue. We get it! The lines can be easily blurred when discussing a public health issue because politicians play a pivotal in the decision-making of mandates. In this case, NPs are positioned to serve as a health resource to clarify misinformation on a public health issue. When necessary one should disengage from debates especially on social media.
- Less is more. Get familiar with the research, use plain language, and keep it a matter of factly. The goal is to inform them and too much information can be overwhelming which can cause more anxiety.
- Offer opportunities for your patients to ask questions. For the past year, the public has been updated with different mandates as the nature of this virus has unfolded. Naturally, these changes have caused confusion which has contributed to anxiety. Providing an opportunity for patients to ask clarifying questions can help ease their anxieties. If the person is not your patient refer them to their provider who knows their history.
- You do not have to engage. It is important that you don’t feel obligated to educate everyone around when you are already giving so much at work. You can always refer. This is self-explanatory because there are varying specialties and many NPs are not positioned to speak on this topic. If you choose to comment be sure to address the most common questions at this time.
- Go Private. People are more receptive when they are corrected in private than on a public platform. If you come across misinformation on your social media feed of someone you know, reach out to them via direct messaging or phone to offer your input as a resource. These small changes can lead to big impact.
Here are the five musts Nurse Practitioners should know when talking about the Delta Variant and Vaccines:
1. What is the Delta variant? All viruses tend to change or mutate. The Delta variant is a mutation of the novel coronavirus (COVID19). Currently, there are four variants of COVID19 identified by the CDC and the Delta variant has higher transmission than the others.
2. How is COVID19 spread? COVID-19 is a respiratory virus spread through droplets. This means an infected person can spread the virus in the air through talking, laughing, sneezing, coughing, and kissing. Wearing a mask decreases the spreading of the COVID-19 because it serves as a barrier between the person who is infected with the virus and the one who is not. It is important to mention that the infected person does not have to be symptomatic (sick) to spread the virus.
3. Can vaccinated individuals transmit the virus? Your body has memory. When you get infected by a pathogen or virus such as COVID-19, your body actively produces antibodies to fight against the virus which prevents you from getting sick or as sick the next time you are exposed to the virus. This is called immunity. In some cases, the body passively gets infected with a weakened virus so you can build immunities to prevent you from getting an active case of the virus or minimizes the severity of symptoms the virus may cause. This passive approach is commonly known as vaccination. And rare cases, some individuals’ bodies do not make enough antibodies after vaccination to prevent them from getting sick which is why they can be fully vaccinated and still get sick. Furthermore, a fully vaccinated individual who has not been exposed to the mutated virus can also get sick because the body has no memory for the mutation.
4. Should we continue wearing masks? Yes. Wearing a mask decreases the spreading of the COVID-19 virus in the community. One by one, schools, counties, restaurant establishments, and more are requiring masks again. In general practice, we, healthcare providers wear masks as a precaution to protect us from getting colds, flu, and other diseases that can be spread through droplets while caring for patients. CDC and WHO continue to encourage the public to exercise the same precautions as a measure to decrease hospitalizations and death.
5. Are the symptoms of the Delta Variant the same? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people cannot tell the difference between the novel virus and its variant. Mainly the symptoms vary from person to person.
After reading some of the comments on my social media feed and in some parent groups, I provided a safe space for parents to share their concerns and ask questions about their children returning to school while COVID19 numbers return on the rise. Small opportunities such as educating those around you may not save the world but will be the world to your friends, family, patients, and community. You can check out my recent healthy conversation workshop on Debunking myths about masks and vaccines.
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