Dr. El

I watched warily as Leo wheeled his cart onto the elevator with me, his mask below his nose. He used to pull it up when he saw me, mindful of the many conversations we’d had about getting the vaccine, but lately he’d become a full “Noser.” 

A Noser is my term for people who wear masks, but ineffectively, as if they were complying with the rules. A mask poser, if you will. It’s said in the same tone that Seinfeld used to greet his disliked neighbor Newman on the old television show. “Oh hello, Noser.” For the record, I’ve never actually greeted anyone in this way, at least not aloud. In the interests of staff relations, I didn’t even step off the elevator when Leo entered, but merely faced forward and hoped for the best. 

Leo, a married father with young children, wasn’t vaccinated. His mother had cured him of COVID-19 with herbal teas, he’d told me. What herbs did she use? He wasn’t sure, but it involved turmeric. I have turmeric ginger tea in my cabinet and while I’d drink some if I became ill, it’s not my full COVID strategy. It seemed to be his, and I was concerned for him and his family, and for me and our coworkers.

I’ve been noticing a lot more Nosers at work lately, catching shocking glimpses of naked mouths at nursing stations, and walking into rooms full of unmasked employees celebrating over lunch the impending departure of yet another long-time staff member, or “Haddits,” as McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor puts it. 

I feel about vaccine mandates the same way I felt about testing and vaccines: What’s taking so long? Or, if I’m being honest, WTF is taking so long?

I understand the concern that organizations might lose employees due to a vaccine mandate, but where is the concern that they might lose employees due to the lack of a vaccine mandate? 

With infection rates climbing again, the virulence of the Delta variant, increased family visitors amidst our vulnerable population, under-12s still without vaccination options (another WTF), and half-hearted mask mandate enforcement, the Nosers might push the Haddits out the door.

Unvaccinated employees have had months to gather information about the vaccine. They may have gathered misinformation, taken a position, surrounded themselves with like-minded others and defended their stance to outsiders. This makes it very difficult to say, “I was wrong and I’ve changed my mind.”

Vaccine mandates provide the opportunity to say, instead, “I’m still right, but I have to do it for my job.” It allows the opportunity for workers to save face. 

If saving face is what it takes to safely see faces again, I’m all for it.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is a Bronze Medalist for Best Blog in the American Society of Business Publication Editors national competition and a Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category in their Midwest Regional competition. To contact her for speaking engagements and/or content writing, visit her at EleanorFeldmanBarbera.com.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.