Nurses and all health professionals are an important and trusted source of advice on vaccination. The discussion with parents and the public is time well spent and people value having the opportunity to ask questions.
The 'Practical tips' below, are adapted from Bedford H and Elliman D (2019) Fifteen-minute consultation: Vaccine-hesitant parents Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed:BMJ.
It is important that nurses are well informed in order to provide information for people’s questions. It is however, the approach you take during the conversation which is key:
- the aim of the conversation is to gain trust and support people to hopefully accept vaccination
- where it is identified that vaccines are due or missing; ask for permission to discuss this. Raising the subject gives the message that this is important and also gives people permission to ask questions
- ask questions to gain greater insight into the individual’s main concerns and listen to them
- be empathic, ‘I understand why you might be concerned’ it really is not surprising that parents and the wider public have questions and concerns
- avoid giving a fact-filled lecture, simply giving more and more information is not the solution and can be counterproductive
- Stick to the concerns raised and provide a limited number of main points in response, expressed simply
- focus on the risk of the diseases—the public, and some professionals, have little experience of diseases because of the success of the vaccination programme
- there is evidence that restating a myth serves to reinforce it— instead identify a myth as being false and focus on the facts: the benefits of vaccination while acknowledging the side effects of vaccines
- highlight the consensus among scientists/health professionals about the evidence in support of vaccination
- acknowledge that we all want the best for ourselves and our children
- do not belittle individuals' concerns
- if people decide not to vaccinate, be clear they can change their mind at any stage and leave the door open for further discussion
- if asked whether you have been vaccinated or your own children have, confirming that you have is an important exemplar.
It is good practice to support any advice you give with written information. Check that the information printed from websites is up to date, evidence based and from a credible source.
As a general guide when searching the web for information, ask yourself and encourage patients, parents and carers to ask the following questions:
- who or what is behind the information?
- is the information biased, or possibly selected to present one view point?
- does the author have a vested interest in the information they are presenting?
- is it dated? There may be more current advice available.
- is it referenced and are uncertainties acknowledged?
In addition look for websites providing reliable and trustworthy health information which have the Health on the net HONcode.