Joseph Toledo, RN, never wants anyone to suffer as badly as the COVID-19 patients he took care of over the last 14 months at the Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center.
That’s what he is telling his hospital patients who have not yet received the vaccine.
Counseling unvaccinated hospital patients to take the COVID-19 vaccine is one part of a larger Kaiser Permanente effort to protect as many people as quickly as possible. The Acute Care Hospital Vaccination program started March 17, and has since vaccinated over 2,000 patients in Northern California, said Chethana Vijay, MD, chair of Resource Management chiefs and a physician at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. Eligible patients in the hospital are carefully vetted to make sure the vaccine is safe for them.
Speaking from the heart
Radiah Thompson, 47, and her elderly hospital roommate in the Sacramento Medical Center were both scared of getting the vaccine. Then they met Toledo.
“When Joe came to talk to me about the vaccine, I was really skeptical,” said Thompson. “We hear different things about vaccines, but Joe was so positive. He told us it would be fine except for a few aches. It was amazing. He touched my heart.”
Both patients ended up getting the vaccine after talking to Toledo.
“I tell people I take care of who are having second thoughts about the vaccine that I am not just a nurse, I am a real person who thinks about you when I go home,” Toledo said. “I tell them I’ve seen more people die in the last year than in all of my 15-year career, and I know in my heart that if I could prevent one person from being in the COVID-19 unit, by giving that person a vaccine, that would be the best thing one nurse could do for someone.”
Toledo said he told Thompson there are risks, “But I also told her I personally believe the risks are less than what the symptoms of COVID-19 might be.”
About 55% of California residents eligible for the vaccine are now fully vaccinated, but many more are needed to protect everyone.
Dr. Vijay said the choice to give a vaccine to someone in the hospital is a careful one that includes weighing the risks and benefits of giving it when the patient has an illness. And then there’s the communication with the patient.
“The bedside touch is so crucial when you have the same caregiver for an extended period of time,” Dr. Vijay said. “The nurse can make that connection and pull in a physician if needed. If they are in the hospital for a few days, there is a special bonding, and for those unsure about getting vaccinated, it’s definitely an opportunity to spend time talking to them about it.”
For Thompson, who has diabetes, high blood pressure, and a “whole bunch of family curses,” which would make a COVID-19 infection especially dangerous, Toledo was just what she needed.
“Joe told me I needed to be especially careful because of my other health issues,” said Thompson. “It was great listening to him and his reasoning. I thought, ‘Wow, he is so confident, I want to do it right now.’”