With COVID-19 vaccines becoming more available in the United States, millions of healthcare workers are now fully vaccinated.
However, some clinicians are still hesitant. Nurse Manager Barb Bosah, MS, RN, PCCN, was initially reluctant to get vaccinated due to cultural influences and the desire for more long-term scientific data. However, it was the support from family, role models and co-workers that ultimately helped her decide to get vaccinated.
AACN Clinical Practice Specialist Jenny Nelson spoke to Bosah about her journey and what she would encourage other nurses to consider if they are on the fence. View the video and the transcript below.
Jenny: You have a very interesting experience with making the decision of finding out about the COVID vaccine and working through whether or not that was the right choice for you. You had a little bit of skepticism at first and a little hesitancy about that. Tell me about that.
Barb: I'll be honest. Initially, when I heard about the COVID vaccine, I was quite skeptical. I didn't know what to think. I felt unsure. I felt scared. I felt like the vaccine came out way too soon. Most of the people around my circle shared the same belief as myself in the sense of, wow, the quick turnaround.
I also felt some family pressure. I'm originally from Nigeria in West Africa, and we do have our beliefs and we're not one to jump forward when things just come out. We have to take a moment to pause and see what's out there, look at the research. Then I was conflicted being a nurse, knowing we want to practice based on the evidence. I also look at myself as an African American, as an African, as a Black woman. I'm also looking at my past medical history. I'm at high risk, I'm susceptible to gain COVID and that's scary.
As a leader, I had to think, I had to make sure I was making the right decision and that's being open and talking to anyone. When I say anyone, family, my peers, my team, my supervisor and also putting my myself out there to get my information.
Jenny: How did you take those different influences and apply them into the evidence that you were seeing about the vaccine?
Barb: When the vaccine came out in December, there was a lot of information out there. But I can't speak more highly of my organization. We were prepared, and we were organized. We made sure we have the right information out there. Seeing other people who look like me sharing this story made a difference. And having the peer support of talking to my colleagues and asking them. I guess I wanted to share my story to see if it made sense. Mm I truly scared or just being chicken, or are my thoughts valid? That was rough, but I felt supported.
Jenny: We're in the same boat as where we have aging parents and we have school aged kids, too. Talk to me a little bit about your kiddos. How did they influence you? Where were they at on the spectrum of everything with COVID?
Barb: My daughter was scared, but that's her personality. You know what's funny and embarrassing? She knew more than I did. I came home, she would say, "So mama, the vaccines are out, so are you getting the vaccine?" And I'm like, "Oh yes, we'll talk about that later." But she kept insisting. So to me, I knew it mattered to her. It mattered to her that I'm safe.
Jenny: Was there one particular person who really influenced your decision and maybe got you to that point where you were, "Okay, yes, I'm sold on the evidence and I am ready to get my vaccine." Was there a person for you in the organization?
Barb: So I got my first vaccine and I have to say that day, I felt like I was going to some big event, right. I have myself prepped and brought my towel just in case. I came to work and was telling everyone, l'm getting my vaccine today. I wanted to be part of that club. I felt like I was the outsider being there for my staff and give resources to them and being open and transparent and all of them would take a vaccine. I was like, "I'm sharing this information, but I need to be a role model and lead by example, of course, after I made my conscious decision.
As much as I was kind of smiling deep down, I was afraid. But I don't know what I was afraid of, but I was scared. I said, "What if I'm the person who gets the reaction? What if I am the one that something bad happens to." But I stopped, kept going. The lady who gave me my shot, she was good. When she gave it to me I said, "Are you done?" And she said, "Yeah, I'm done." And it went very well.
I think I have shared my story, but one thing I learned and I was appreciative of the other people who were my soundboard, was not being pressured. There's nothing worse than someone telling you, you have to do something. For me, I can speak from my experience, was going to the individual I felt safe with. I felt, I had a relationship with. I have that relationship with my team. So when we do our town halls or safety huddles or staff meetings, we have multiple conversations. I'll ask what questions they have about the vaccine? And some of them will say, "You know what, now we know." Or "I don't think I'm ready for it." I listen. I think that's the most important thing.
Jenny: It's a really good story. I'm so glad you have kind of these solid grounded people in both areas of your life that you can soundboard and there's nothing better than having one of your kids being your biggest cheerleader too. I mean, that'll perk up a bad day when he walked through the door and you've got a great cheerleader like that. So I really appreciate you taking time and telling us your story and talking through this with us.