The big question that many travel nurses (and those in the nursing profession) are wondering is whether or not they need to be vaccinated. Vaccines have been an ongoing topic of conversation, especially with the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the answer falls into a gray area. While we can’t give a definitive “yes” or “no” to answer this question, we can help point you to resources that can.
An Unbiased Conversation about Vaccines
Please note that for this blog, we will put aside the question of vaccine safety and vaccine recommendations and instead focus on providing you with helpful resources and insight into vaccination requirements for travel nursing positions based on a survey we conducted with travel nursing agencies.
Let’s dive in.
Our Online Survey – What We Learned About Vaccine Requirements
We took the time to reach out to several travel nursing agencies through an online survey in search of the answers to your burning questions about travel nursing, vaccine mandates and requirements, and nursing regulation.
Here is what we found out.
Our Survey Findings
The main finding from our survey was that vaccine requirements vary on a number of levels. I know that’s not the ideal answer you are looking for, but unfortunately, that was the answer we received.
Let’s Talk About All Vaccines, Not Just COVID-19
Before we unpack our survey findings further, we want to clarify that the data from our survey is not specific to the COVID-19 vaccination. Instead, our survey inquired, in general, about all vaccinations and where the requirements stem from.
In our survey, we never specified that we were referring to particular vaccinations, vaccines, or specific infectious diseases. However, the COVID-19 vaccine and pandemic are hot topics in the media, which leads us to believe that most agencies filled out this survey with it at the forefront of their minds.
However, we cannot say for sure.
Some Travel Nursing Agencies Have Requirements for Vaccines
According to our survey, 21% of travel nursing agencies have vaccine requirements for travelers. The remaining 79% do not.
Some agencies, in this case, 21%, require all of the travel nurses they work with to be vaccinated for a number of diseases potentially including, but not limited to hepatitis, measles, mumps, and COVID-19 based on patient safety guidelines from the centers for disease control (a.k.a the CDC). On the other hand, 79% of the travel nursing agencies that took our survey do not require their travel nurses to have vaccinations or immunization to find jobs through their agency.
What Does This Mean?
So, the simple answer here is that whether you are vaccinated or not, you can find travel nursing agencies and recruiters that will work with your vaccination status. Just be sure to ask the agency what vaccines they require before deciding to work with them or not.
The Basis for Vaccine Requirements
So, where do travel nursing agencies base their requirements? Let’s dive into the data and find out!
The big one is facility/hospital requirements. 89% of travel nurse agency respondents said they choose their requirements based on the facility and/or hospitals they work with and their stance on specific vaccines for public health.
Another 26% of respondents base their requirements on the specific position they are hiring for, and 5% base immunization on the specialty.
State requirements only affected the decision for 5% of staffing agencies. The remaining 10% answered none of the above, so what they base their requirements on is unclear.
Understanding the Findings
As you may have noticed, the percentages listed above total over 100%. The reason for that is that more than one factor may play a role in whether or not a travel nursing agency has immunization requirements.
However, as you can see, the most significant influence on whether or not travel agencies require their travelers to be vaccinated is due to the facility/hospital requirements.
While the agency you work with may require or not require vaccinations, getting hired for a travel nursing position may come down to the hospital or facility requirements.
Most Common Vaccine Requirements
What should you do once you’ve found an agency that is compatible and fits with your vaccination status? Your next step is to find a travel nursing position that also meets your vaccination status. In this next section, we’re going to break down requirements by two vaccine types: influenza and COVID-19.
Influenza, most commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral infection that comes around every year. The influenza vaccine has been around for decades and is much less of a hot topic than the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it’s still important to discuss the influenza vaccine as it is one of the most common vaccines that health care workers may choose to get or are required to receive.
Is the flu vaccine required for health care workers in medical facilities?
The simplified answer is maybe.
The flu season comes around every year, which means a new influenza vaccination is released and administered to the population yearly to help with disease control and prevention. During the 2019-2020 flu season, Clipboard Academy reported that 80.6% of health care workers, and 92% of nurses, received the flu shot.
Those vaccination rates are high, likely because many people working in health care facilities are in close contact with flu patients daily and choose to get the influenza vaccine to protect themselves.
But can someone choose to opt-out of receiving the vaccine?
In certain states, healthcare professionals must receive the influenza vaccine, except for religious exemption for religious beliefs or medical exemptions for medical issues associated with the vaccine. Other states have laws that require hospitals to provide the opportunity for vaccine administration to employees.
Now let’s dive into the million-dollar question of whether travel nurses – and health care workers in general – need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The answer isn’t entirely clear because each situation is unique. As we mentioned above, every hospital or facility may have different vaccination requirements for public health, and it may also depend on what the state mandate is.
How to Find Out if a Specific Position has Vaccine Requirements
If you’re wondering if a position that you applied for or are interested in will require you to have the covid vaccine or other vaccines, the best thing you can do is reach out to your recruiter. Recruiters typically know if the specific hospital or facility will require the candidate to submit proof of vaccination status. The agency may also share this information in the job posting.
This information may also be mentioned during the hiring process or before an offer for a position is made. If you are unsure if your vaccination status will disqualify you from a job, be sure to ask the recruiter early in the process.
Keep in mind that recruiters and agencies have no say on vaccine policies for healthcare workers in a health care setting most of the time. One agency described it well when they stated this in our survey:
“Agencies have no influence on hospital policies. Just like the nurses, the agency option is to either comply with hospital policies or not work there. Our goal for the client is to provide healthcare professionals that meet their need. Our goal for the nurse is to have assignment options that meet their need. If we have a nurse who chooses not to get vaccinated, we have options for the nurse. If we have a nurse who chooses to get vaccinated, we have options for the nurse. We understand our role in the industry and do our best to successfully deliver to our nurses and clients – while also keeping compliance with client requirements, Joint Commission requirements, and local/state/federal law/requirements.”
The Situation is Constantly Changing
Keep in mind that this is an ever-evolving situation. But, in recent months, more and more facilities are moving to require all health care workers, including travel nurses, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as other illnesses and diseases.
If a hospital or facility does not require a vaccine now, it may become a requirement down the line. And even if a state does not mandate a vaccine, hospitals and facilities can still require healthcare workers to show proof of their vaccination status.
Vaccination is Your Choice
We are not encouraging nor discouraging travel nurses from getting vaccinated or not. We understand that vaccination is a personal choice, and we encourage nurses, nursing students, and all medical professionals to do their research on immunization and make their own choice. In this case, education is the most critical tool in your tool belt.
What are your thoughts on vaccines, vaccine uptake, and vaccine-preventable diseases? We’d love to hear about your experiences with vaccines as a travel nurse.
Are you interested in becoming a travel nurse? Check out these excellent travel nursing jobs across the country and apply to your ideal job today!