In the months leading up to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, key members of the C-suite at Trinity Health told employees they plan to take it at their first opportunity.
The Livonia, Mich.-based health system has been hosting series of town halls about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines after a survey of employees conducted before vaccine distribution began showed only about 60% were willing to take it.
In communications with staff, Dr. Daniel Roth, chief clinical officer, said he’s made clear his eagerness to take the vaccine after workers in patient-facing jobs get their chance. Trinity Health’s CEO, Mike Slubowski, has told employees he’ll be taking the vaccine as well at his first opportunity, according to Roth.
“We wanted to focus first on our front-line caregivers,” Roth said. “For our leadership team and for people like me, we have said, ‘We’ll get the vaccine when it’s our turn and we are eager for that.’ ”
Trinity’s C-suite is set to get their vaccine starting this week.
Trinity isn’t alone in seeing hesitancy among staff. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted prior to the release of the vaccines showed roughly 60% of healthcare workers said they were willing to get vaccinated.
With vaccinations underway, there are reports of workers continuing to show reluctance. There’s no central database tracking how many healthcare workers nationwide are being vaccinated. The CDC reports the total number of doses distributed and administered, but the first wave of vaccinations included the elderly.
Concern about the safety of the vaccine appears to be the most common reason. Health systems are responding through various tactics including education and making it public when trusted local and system-wide leadership receive or plan to receive their shots.
“(Identify) who the influencers (at an organization) are. It may be the ICU nurse who is a major influencer in the hospital system. Really highlighting the influencers getting vaccinated and then sharing the message of new hope, is a potential strategy,” said Dr. David Zieg, clinical services leader at human resources consultancy Mercer.
It’s a tactic major health systems are deploying. Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, received the vaccine Dec. 29 after weeks of it being offered to front-line caregivers, a spokesman said in an email, adding, “We think it’s important for our hospital and system leaders to show that they’re willing to receive the vaccine alongside their staff.”
Dr. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence, will get the vaccine after more front-line caregivers have the opportunity, according to a spokeswoman at the Renton, Wash.-based health system. He plans to inform staff when he does get the shot.
At Ochsner Health, the chief medical, nursing and academic officers received the vaccine, which was photographed and shared with staff.
Zieg said it’s a delicate balance for health systems to show leadership getting vaccinated while also ensuring patient-facing workers are prioritized.
“The CEO, (isn’t) a front-line healthcare worker typically, so I’d worry about a mixed-message of skipping lines. There is a lot of importance around making sure that groups are getting the vaccine that need the vaccine first.”
Mount Sinai Health System in New York is taking that approach. Leaders with no patient interactions haven’t received the vaccine, said Dr. Waleed Javaid, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai.
“If a member of the C-suite never goes to a clinical area, they are not prioritized,” he said. “You want to be fair.”
Javaid does interact with patients and therefore did receive the vaccine. “I’m proudly saying to everyone I did get vaccinated,” he said.
The town halls at Trinity Health appear to be working, Roth said. They are well attended and since vaccine rollout began Dec. 14, about 40% of employees have been vaccinated. A recent poll of employees at the system level shows 70% are now willing to get vaccinated.