James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight’s Editor

If you want to get a lot of attention on the big screen, an old rub goes, all you have to do is trot out some kids or a dog. In long-term care, just bring up the topic of mandated flu shots for healthcare workers.

You can sit back and watch as the infection control experts and Constitution-wavers dig their heels in and spar over who has the most righteous position.

My general feeling is if you want to work for me and I want you to protect yourself and my — no, OUR — residents, take the harmless shot. But I can see where that might seem invasive to some folks. (I don’t buy the “it’s probably an ineffective serum many years” argument. So what if it is a poor match for that season’s bug? You’re no worse than back at ground zero and at least you’ve tried.)

But being a benevolent administrator/owner, I have an option for you: Take your shot or wear a protective mask when in contact with the fragile clients we care for. It’s another good-practice option endorsed by many clinical experts.

It’s worked wonderfully for places such as The Village at Manor Park, a Milwaukee-based provider. Three years ago, VMP began mandating flu shots for staff; objectors have the option of wearing a mask from mid-October through the end of March.

The result? More than 90% of employees have received the vaccine over the last two years. “Just an FYI,” happily writes Marianne Penne, a corporate nurse executive for VMP.

It wasn’t long ago that some people complained that proposed mandatory seatbelt laws would trample their clothes and their constitutional rights. Years later, those arguments have proved moot, and countless lives have been saved. One way or another, it’s time to get on with a better flu protection program, too. The blueprint is above.