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Loss to COVID-19 drives long-term care director of nursing to urge vaccination

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 10:09 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Rules are expected to take effect this month with the federal vaccination requirement for Medicare and Medicaid-partnered long-term care facilities. In August, the Biden administration said all staff would need to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The director of nursing for a Goessel long-term care center is using a more personable strategy in encouraging staff members to get vaccinated, sharing her own experience with COVID-19.

When a COVID-19 vaccine became available to Bethesda Home Director of Nursing Kelli Kidd in January, she seized the opportunity. The main reason, she said, is that she saw the virus take the lives of people she cared for and loved. To Kidd, the vaccine is the way to save lives and she’s speaking with others to see it that way too. A year has changed her life.

“October 1 of 2020, both my husband and myself were infected with COVID-19,” Kidd said.

In the weeks and months that followed, her husband, Robert, was in and out of the hospital.

“I was still able to go there and be with him every day,” Kidd said.

That was until Jan. 2 when Robert died. Two days later, Kidd got her first dose of a COViD-19 vaccine. She said she did so with the people she cares for in her job at Bethesda home in mind.

“I’ve always been an advocate for our residents and now, I’ an advocate for my husband,” Kidd said.

With that as her inspiration, Kidd is using her testimony as a way to strike a conversation with those who are unvaccinated.

“If they had to go through what myself our children and my whole family did, I think that would change their mind,” Kidd said. “However, I don’t want that to have to change their minds.”

With her story and research, the outreach includes people Kidd works with, trying to understand their hesitancy with getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Why don’t you want to get vaccines?’ The majority of it is there isn’t enough information out about it. So, that’s where I tell them to do your research,” Kidd said.

State data shows Bethesda has a staff vaccination rate of about 60 percent. The national average for long-term care facilities is 65 percent. Soon, many long-term care facilities will be required to have their entire staffs vaccinated. This is something Kidd said could both help and hurt.

“I would hope that more staff stay in the healthcare industry and get vaccinated and not just leave,” she said.

For Kidd, her strategy is just to talk with people about her husband.

“It is their choice, but the alternative, you don’t want someone from their family passing away,” she said.

Kidd said working in long-term care, the vaccine provides her with assurance she is protecting the people who live at Bethesda Home. Earlier during the pandemic, the facility in Goessel lost 10 residents to COVID-19 in the span of three months. Kansas has set a goal of 90 percent staff vaccination at long-term care facilities. So far, three facilities in the state have reached that goal.

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