Persuade don't pressure: How this DC nursing home overcame vaccine hesitancy

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Nearly half of the staff at Forest Hills of D.C. nursing home in Washington turned down their chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when it was first offered to them in January. After months of gentle persuading efforts by the facility's chief executive, 79 percent of staff are now vaccinated, The New York Times reported March 28. 

Tina Sandri, the chief executive at Forest Hills, found typical tactics, such as sending fact-filled text messages to staff members or offering them perks like gift cards and bonuses, weren't the right strategy. Ms. Sandri also ruled out making the vaccine a requirement, which she feared could lead to employees leaving or feeling alienated. 

Instead, her goal was to persuade, not pressure hesitant employees, the Times reported. Ms. Sandri found a one-size-fits all approach did not work because each person had different reasons behind their vaccine refusal. 

So, she undertook a "time intensive, conversation-intensive, case-by-base uphill climb," asking about each employees' individual concerns, and what kind of information they needed. 

"For analytical people, we provided data on number of cases, number of people in trials, percent of people who experience an immune response," Ms. Sandri told the Times. "For relationship-based thinkers, we asked if they had any vulnerable friends or family members, and how having or not having the vaccine might impact the relationship." 

The patience and effort paid off, Ms. Sandri said, with 79 percent of the nursing home's staff now partially or fully vaccinated. 

"Everyone's fears are real, whether or not they are grounded in science or something they believe right now," she said. "Beliefs change with time or new knowledge, so we have to ride it out. Listen hard, don't judge and let them move at their own pace." 

 

 

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