The staff at Masonic Villages has upwards of 3,000 reasons to get vaccinated against the flu: one for each resident living in our five communities.

In 2014, Masonic Villages, which includes locations in Dallas, Elizabethtown, Lafayette Hill, Sewickley and Warminster, PA, implemented a mandatory flu vaccine policy for all employees, with exemptions for those with medical or religious reasons.

Anyone who is exempted must wear a face mask when flu is active in the local community, as determined by nearby hospital systems.

Before we mandated vaccines, we saw annual vaccination rates around 60%.

Each year since 2014, approximately 99% of employees at all locations have participated through vaccinations or exemptions and wearing a face mask, whether they work directly with residents or not. 

At the Masonic Health Care Center in Elizabethtown — our largest location providing long-term care services to an average of 423 residents — we’ve had no major outbreaks since the 2014/2015 flu season. The number of cases typically depends on how prevalent the flu is in the wider community.

Employee vaccination is a cornerstone of our flu prevention strategies — and a highly effective one. This flu season, we created a video explaining why we believe we’ve seen an average of just nine confirmed cases annually since instituting our current vaccine policy.

Masonic Villages chose to mandate the flu vaccine for employees to improve the protection of our residents. Our medical director had been monitoring vaccination rates among employees, and it is proven that to prevent influenza in older adults who have more difficulty building a strong immunity, you need staff to be vaccinated. 

Our residents are vaccinated, too. But we really felt this was an important step to ensure we provide the safest environment for our residents.

Beyond requiring participation in the program — and offering free flu shots on multiple dates and times during work hours — directors, managers and supervisors educate staff, especially newer employees, about the benefits to residents and themselves. 

Across all departments, they provide reminders during staff meetings and give updated progress rates.

Seasonal workers or college students who may not be working on a Masonic Village campus when vaccines are offered may be vaccinated at school and provide validation. Many employees under age 18 receive their vaccine from a family doctor. All employees who receive their shot elsewhere must show proof of vaccination.

Our employees’ commitment to serving our residents by getting their flu shot is heartwarming. We don’t have to track down a large percentage of our employees — and that’s not just because we sometimes tempt them with free chocolate during flu shot clinics. They are on board, and they come willingly to get their shots.

They understand they’re protecting themselves, their families, their communities and our residents.

Mary Pat Frick, RN, is an infection preventionist at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.