This episode and blog post are Part 1 of the final special report of our Vaccine Confidence Special Reports series on At the Core of Care. Over the course of 6 episodes, we'll do a deep dive into three different facets of the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this special report in the coming weeks by following us on Twitter and subscribing to our newsletter.
Lizett Leandro is the Director of Clinical Services for a senior living non-profit in Southern California. She oversees nursing education policy and procedures and quality improvement for skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities in Southern California.
Leandro spent the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic working with older adults, and her own experiences as a nurse made it clear to her that vaccine education was an important first step to getting people vaccinated and controlling COVID-19 in California. Early in the vaccine rollout she witnessed skepticism, “mainly because we just didn't have the material… the correct material from the credible sources on hand,” Leandro observes. “So I started gathering all that material. I started making myself available, as a nurse, to our staff.” Flyers were an especially valuable tool for Leandro, because they answered common questions using understandable terms. Leandro noticed a big shift once people started understanding the science behind the vaccines.
She witnessed first-hand how much hope the vaccine brought patients, she says, “especially [in] the assisted living communities, memory care communities, skilled nursing facilities to have more resident-to-resident interaction, more families involved. More human touch, personal touch. More activities.” Now about 95% of the residents of these living communities are vaccinated, and Leandro reports that things are looking brighter.
By Spring 2021, Leandro got involved with HealthImpact to help get its Trust a Nurse, Ask a Nurse telehealth platform up and running. This free service is still available and relies on nurses who volunteer to speak with community members through video calls. “We first have a video call with them and explain what it is, answer all the questions, and then we follow up with the material just to solidify the patient education,” says Leandro. She adds that when someone has internet access issues, “we literally send it right to their phone.”
The program has received many calls from women and lactation consultants who are hearing misinformation or have questions about breastfeeding and the vaccine. Leandro herself had a baby in the first year of the pandemic, and shares, “I had done a lot of research on the benefits of breastfeeding along with, you know, what it was to breastfeed with the COVID-19 vaccine and if it had any impact. So being able to share material from facts from the research from CDC, from CDPH. That it was actually encouraged to breastfeed…and all the benefits of breastfeeding of course were highlighted. It really spoke to me on how lack of education and access to information is such a big factor in vaccine hesitancy, you know, and how providing this education to the right person can make a difference.”
Trust a Nurse, Ask a Nurse also offers all of their materials in Spanish. “One of the visitors that I had was bilingual, so being able to provide Spanish material and English material-- it was really invaluable because I spoke to one person, but that conversation actually impacted you know, probably 10, 20 other people. Because I know she was going to take that material to other people,” Leandro shares. Providing education to just one vaccine-hesitant patient could have a significant impact on a community that Leandro might not have reached otherwise.
Trust a Nurse, Ask a Nurse has had many successes, and Leandro remains optimistic that vaccination rates will continue to climb, even with current misinformation circulating that the vaccines are ineffective at preventing breakthrough cases. Leandro responds “the most valuable tools that we can get… is having one more tool to prevent death, to prevent severe COVID. I think our nursing community or healthcare community, we have to stay grounded to that fact, you know and understand that, yes, COVID is not going anywhere. But the science is also not going anywhere.”
Nurses and other health professionals across the country are using innovative methods to vaccinate their communities against COVID-19. Follow along as we explore other stories in depth as part of our Vaccine Confidence Special Reports.
This project was funded in part by a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant number NU50CK000580). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this resource center do not necessarily represent the policy of CDC or HHS, and should not be considered an endorsement by the Federal Government.