The end is in sight – we hope. Residents and staff of long term care facilities are receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations in the first round of inoculations. And rightly so. They have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. But with this good news, also comes the reality of a large coordination and communication campaign for each facility. Keeping residents, their families and senior care staff informed of continued COVID-19 testing regimens, alongside gaining vaccination consent, and a two stage vaccination process which requires a very targeted and organized outreach strategy.
It’s a lot.
What information should you be sending to residents and their families and when? What about staff? The following is intended to help you develop an actionable communication plan to bolster your facility’s vaccination communication and coordination plan.
Educate Your Community
No matter the intended audience, providing education on the benefits (and any potential side effects) of the vaccine is necessary. AHCA and the CDC have some great resources to help get the conversation started. Normalize the practice of vaccination by reminding your care community that it is not their first vaccine, and the process will be similar to inoculations they have received in the past and that the shot is safe, easy and effective.
To help drive the message home, consider providing a short FAQ document from a trusted source such as a facility physician or IPAC specialist. Residents, their families and staff may digest the information more easily if it is coming from a familiar face.
While getting vaccinated is likely top of mind for everyone in your care community, it is still a good idea to send reminders of clinic dates and times. Using an automated reminder system can help get the message out with accurate information, while alleviating the communication burden from staff. Reminders should include helpful hints like:
- Wearing a short sleeved shirt
- Bringing identification, health or insurance cards, consent forms etc.
- How transportation will be managed if the clinic is off-site
Encouraging staff and residents to share their vaccination experience on their social media accounts, or, sharing photos in a weekly newsletter not only celebrates a huge milestone, but can also normalize the vaccination process. This could be useful in future vaccine campaigns – like annual flu shots! Making vaccines personal helps to serve as a reminder to all that residents, their families and staff can start to regain control of their lives and that it has a profound effect on their whole community.
Resident Family Communication
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over 99% of nursing homes nationwide have enrolled in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program to receive vaccinations. This will entail roughly three visits to a facility over the course of two months to ensure all staff and residents are vaccinated. Outgoing communications to your resident community should include:
- Information providing each resident and/or their representative education on the vaccine
- The method by which consent from the resident or their representative will be obtained
- Repercussions of refusing vaccination. Offer to hold a care conference to address concerns and questions
- Consider choosing a “point person” to answer questions and concerns and to ensure consistent information is shared. Providing their contact information could help alleviate incoming calls to untrained staff
Sample Messages For Resident Families
- Hello. Our facility will be administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and employees on 2/ DATE/2021 and 2/DATE/2021. If you are interested in your loved one being vaccinated, please contact the Director of Nursing as soon as possible.
- Good afternoon family and friends. All residents who consented to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have now received their first dose. Currently, all residents are doing well and are not experiencing any adverse side effects. The second dose will be administered on DATE. If your loved one has not been vaccinated yet, there is still time for them to receive their first dose. Please contact a member of the Nursing management staff to learn more. Thank you for your continued support.
Similar to your residents, staff need to be provided educational materials about the vaccine, how to provide consent, potential repercussions for refusing, and which dates vaccination clinics will occur and how to sign up for them. On top of all this information, it will be imperative to think ahead and keep your staff informed about the following:
- As with any vaccine, there is a risk of side effects. Some staff may need to take absences should they experience a strong reaction. Having a staff shortage coordination plan can help mitigate last minute shift openings
- Additional staff may be needed to monitor and manage side effects that the residents may experience post-vaccination
- Extra staff may be needed to transport residents to an off-site vaccination location
- Ensure clinic times and dates are communicated well in advance to ensure there are multiple opportunities for each shift to be vaccinated
Sample Messages For Staff
- Great News! We have received dates for our COVID-19 vaccinations! The first vaccination date is Tuesday, February DATE, 2021 from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. You must be pre registered to receive your vaccine. Please see HR for the necessary forms and return them by X date. The second date for the first round of vaccination is February DATE, 2021.The second dose of the vaccine will be administered on February DATE, 2021.
- We have our first clinic dates for the COVID-19 vaccination. The first will be on February 10th from 9 am to 5 pm. You need to make management aware by DATE if you are going to receive the vaccination or not. ALL STAFF must sign their consent or declination prior to DATE. A reminder, that this vaccine can save not only your life, but our residents and your loved ones.
- Happy Vaccine Day Team! For those who signed up to receive the vaccine, please come during your scheduled appointment and bring your insurance card. It is recommended you wear a short sleeved shirt. It’s not too late to get a vaccine if you haven’t signed up yet. There are open time slots between 1-3 pm. Looking forward to seeing you there!
- Good afternoon! Congratulations to each staff member who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! The second dose is scheduled for DATE. If you have not yet received your first dose, there is still time. Please let your manager know if you would still like to receive the vaccine. Yesterday’s COVID-19 testing results are still pending, and we will be testing again tomorrow from 8 am to 2:30 pm. Enjoy your day!
As has become standard in the past 11 months, circumstances can change at a moment’s notice; whether it’s on a federal, state or county level. New questions and concerns will arise, so keep communication frequent and transparent to help your residents, their families and staff navigate this new phase as best they can. By setting expectations early, you can keep an open dialogue while minimizing anxiety, and most importantly, finally sharing good news.