Melody Butler, BSN, RN, CIC
Nurse uses her passion to run a grassroots vaccine advocacy organization
Nurses are so much more than caregivers. They’re role models and advocates for health.
All nurses learn to promote a healthy lifestyle, but they often fine-tune what they promote to what they’re most passionate about. At her day job, Melody Butler, BSN, RN, CIC, works as an infection preventionist at a Long Island hospital. During her free time in her role as founder and executive director of Nurses Who Vaccinate (NWV), she advocates for the health aspect she’s most passionate about: immunizations.
This passion ignited during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic when Melody was pregnant. She faced the challenging decision of whether to get the newly released vaccine — which was available to her as a healthcare worker. As she researched the vaccine to make an informed decision, she was bombarded with misinformation on the web. After discussing the facts with her healthcare provider, she decided to get the potentially life-saving vaccine.
Meanwhile, Melody’s friend who was also pregnant (with twins) but was not a healthcare worker did not have access to the vaccine. She contracted H1N1 and, due to the effects of the virus, lost one of her unborn twins. Melody saw firsthand that vaccination could have saved the life of a child.
This is just one example of the many times Melody witnessed the life-or-death impact of immunizations.
“If I can help prevent even one death from diseases like the flu, chicken pox, measles, or COVID, it’s worth it to me,” said Melody. “The ongoing challenge is educating the public about vaccines.”
Nurses as Vaccine Advocates
That’s where the important role of the nurse comes in. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans have rated nurses as the number one most ethical and honest profession for 19 years in a row. Yes, you already save lives in your caregiver role — but nurses who educate themselves about immunizations and spread that knowledge to the larger public can help eradicate certain diseases.
Melody’s role incorporates more than infection prevention at her hospital. Through the grassroots efforts of NWV and its corresponding Facebook group of 1,300 nurses, Melody helps to:
- Empower nurses to amplify the pro-vaccine effort and become advocates
- Share the latest vaccine education with other nurses who can spread the word in their communities
- Provide resources to nurses who host local events and fundraisers
- Encourage open communication on vaccine literacy
- Help nurses work with legislators on pro-vaccine bills
Spreading the Message During a Pandemic
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, NWV would help nurses across the country host in-person events and share vaccine information within their communities. Now, the organization has shifted primarily to virtual efforts, like:
- Informational webinars
- Telephone conferences
- Online classes
- Facebook group discussions and information dissemination
“What we do at the higher level online carries over to the local level,” said Melody. “Nurses take the information and education they receive from us and incorporate it into their roles as nurses, or into their day-to-day community initiatives.”
After all, the impact and influence of a nurse goes beyond hospital walls.
“We encourage all nurses to use their authority as a nurse in the community when talking about vaccines,” said Melody. “When talking to patients, the media, or even family and friends — remember that you are a considered a trusted vaccine expert. Embrace that.”
There’s so much a nurse can do to not only improve their own health and wellness but influence the long-term wellness of other people. Melody suggests:
- Share your passion: Include your loved ones in the health and wellness efforts you’re most passionate about. Make it a family affair. You’d be surprised how interested your kids (even small children) may become.
- Keep yourself educated and updated: Continue to read credible, evidence-based materials on immunizations. Also, make sure you’re caught up on all of the vaccines you need to stay well.
- Protect your families: Don’t be afraid to have conversations with loved ones about vaccines and whether they’re up-to-date on their immunization schedules. Help an elderly loved one find a location to get a flu shot or a COVID-19 vaccine. Drive them there. Reach out to family and friends and lean on your credibility as a nurse to help educate them.
Melody Butler, BSN, RN, CIC, is Founding Executive Director of Nurses Who Vaccinate and an Infection Preventionist on Long Island, NY.
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