What Nurses Should Know About Immunizations

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working as an rn includes giving and receiving vaccinations.


Working on the front lines of healthcare, registered nurses (RNs) play a vital role in stopping the spread of infectious diseases. In addition to being fully vaccinated to protect themselves and their patients from diseases, RNs work to promote the public health benefits that come from immunizations.

RNs administer immunizations, discuss plans with patients who refuse vaccines for themselves or their children and explain the importance of immunizations to the public. With the recent disease outbreaks across the nation resulting from poor vaccination habits, RNs more than ever have to understand the nursing implications for immunizations.

“When vaccination coverage rates decrease, the potential for life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases to return increases. Nurses have a key role in helping to maintain high vaccination coverage by communicating with patients and parents about the benefits of vaccination and vaccine safety,” researchers said in the American Journal of Nursing. “Providing accurate and timely information on vaccine safety can help address nurses’ and other healthcare professionals’ concerns and might help to allay fears of vaccine-hesitant parents and patients.”

Working as an RN includes giving and receiving vaccinations. As part of earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, including an RN-BSN online, RNs must understand the complexities involved in vaccinations.

An RN’s Role in Vaccinations

In their daily work environments, nurses are exposed to bacteria of all kinds, so part of their job is to protect themselves and others from disease. As such, there are several actions nurses take:

Receive Immunizations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all healthcare workers, including nurses, receive immunizations to protect from these diseases:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (TDAP)
  • Meningococcus

In addition, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and other professional nursing organizations said RNs have an ethical responsibility to be fully vaccinated. Most hospitals, medical centers and nursing schools require all RNs to be fully vaccinated.

Administer Vaccines

The CDC said vaccines must be administered correctly so they can be fully effective. In nursing school, RNs learn how to administer vaccines by practicing on injection pads and volunteers. Student nurses learn the basic tenets of administering medications (including vaccines) by following the “rights of medical administration”:

  • Right patient – Verify the correct patient is receiving the vaccine
  • Right vaccine – Confirm the right vaccine is being administered
  • Right time – Validate the patient’s age and product expiration date
  • Right dosage – Ensure the correct dose is being administered
  • Right route – Confirm the correct needle size and technique are used
  • Right site – Verify the correct injection site is used

Educate patients

The CDC said providers should have an open dialogue with patients and parents regarding vaccine safety and concerns. Federal law requires that patients receive a CDC-produced vaccine information statement (VIS) that explains the benefits and risks of a vaccine.

In addition, RNs can also promote the use of vaccines through policy and advocacy. Government agencies, such as the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and non-government agencies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have policies supporting vaccines for healthcare professionals and the public. In addition, nurses have been involved in advocacy work.

Nurses as Vaccine Advocates

As public health advocates, nurses primarily use education and enforcement to promote the health and safety benefits from immunizations, Ann Bowling, PhD, APRN, said in “Immunizations—Nursing Interventions to Enhance Vaccination Rates.”

Education focuses on sharing evidence-based data regarding immunization safety and clarifying misconceptions. Bowling said nurses who work with children, in particular, should use a form of proactive counseling called anticipatory guidance, which addresses commonly asked questions and concerns before they’re asked. Also, to encourage or enforce adherence to the public health vaccination guidelines, nurses should ensure that all parents understand the immunization recommendations, Bowling said.

Earning a BSN is helpful for nurses who wish to promote health and safety in their community. RN-BSN curriculum that is focused in population-based health, nursing ethics and community health can empower nurses to reach their fullest potential. At Duquesne University, the RN-BSN online program emphasizes the importance of academic excellence and evidence-based care.

About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Program

Duquesne University’s 100% online RN-BSN program provides RNs with a well-rounded education, focusing on advanced nursing competencies and culturally sound practices. Duquesne University supports the BSN in 10 movement, which requires all nurses to earn a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure.

Through Duquesne University’s online RN-BSN program, licensed RNs automatically earn 60 of the required 120 credit hours for the program. Those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are a licensed RN are only required to complete 30 credit hours to earn a BSN. Students in the online RN-BSN program also have an opportunity to take master’s-level coursework for a head start on an MSN degree.

Duquesne University has been proudly educating nurses for more than 80 years as the founders of Pennsylvania’s first BSN program in 1937. Our faculty and staff experts work to help every student succeed. For more information, contact Duquesne University now.



Vaccine Safety Resources for Nurses: The CDC supports nurses in promoting vaccination: American Journal of Nurses

Vaccines: ANA

Recommended Vaccines for Healthcare Workers: CDC

Policy and Advocacy: ANA

Immunizations – Nursing Interventions to Enhance Vaccination Rates: Journal of Pediatric Nursing