Do it for your herd

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

How do you convince some 50,000 plus college students, faculty and staff to get a flu shot? If you're the university I attended, you hand out stickers with a catchy slogan and a cartoon cow on them.

The stickers were silly: neon green with a weird little cartoon cow and cartoon hypodermic needles, and “DO IT FOR THE HERD” emblazoned across the top in block letters. They sat in piles around campus, were stuck to lamp posts and dorm cork boards and handed out to anyone who went in for a free flu shot when the clinics were open.

Regardless of your opinion on the stickers or the flu clinics themselves, you couldn't escape their message: get the flu shot not just to protect yourself, but the thousands of other people you came in contact with on campus. And it seemed to work. Friends of my mine who regularly forgot to eat meals and spent their weekends drinking like they were about to have surgery done without anesthesia went in for a flu shot.

The kicker here is the students on our campus had no real duty to keep those around them healthy. The stickers and the overall ad campaign for the flu clinics utilized guilt and a “we're all in this together” philosophy, but the majority of us had no real responsibility to make sure we weren't spreading flu germs to our statistics TA or the frat boy next door, other than common courtesy.

So when I see studies claiming that long-term care workers have the lowest rate of flu vaccines of all healthcare personnel, or that healthcare workers don't always follow the advice for healthy lifestyles that they teach to their patients, I can't help but wonder if a campaign of cow stickers could be useful.

Sure, you can argue that it's a person's choice as to what they put (or don't put) into their bodies ‘til the cows come home. But the stakes here are higher than they were on my campus – the herd in question isn't made up of the strangers you bump into on the bus, or whoever sits in the lecture hall desk after you.

The herd here are the residents you're tasked with looking after, and whose health largely is in your hands. And often times their health is more fragile than yours or mine. So I propose a tweak to those cow stickers for the healthcare crowd:

“Do it for your herd.” It's your responsibility.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.