Lehigh Valley health care workers quit over vaccine mandates. How nurses fit in

Written by on October 22, 2021

Lehigh Valley health care workers quit over vaccine mandates. How nurses fit in

By Tyler Pratt

October 22, 2021

The head of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association says the group hasn’t taken a position on vaccine mandates but more than 90 percent of registered nurses are vaccinated. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Talk about COVID-19 vaccine mandates in health care has been polarizing. 

Listen to the story.

At the end of September, St. Luke’s University Health Network announced that 155 employees quit over their vaccination requirement. And more than a third of its 17,000 employees received some kind of exemption, either religious or medical.

What’s unclear is how many of the total St. Luke’s employees who quit were nurses. Sam Kennedy, St. Luke’s corporate communications director, said he didn’t have those details.  

But Betsy Snook, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, said she thinks many likely held other hospital jobs.

“They’re including nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses in that number,” Snook said. “We know that of the registered nurse workforce over 90% of them are vaccinated.” 

Snook said her organization supports nurses getting COVID-19 vaccines, but stopped short of saying the group agrees with mandates.

“Any time you have a mandate people are going to like it or not like it,” Snook said. “It doesn’t matter. You have to find a place in the middle where you can ask people to use the information, the correct information, to make their choices.” 

A group of nursing students at Moravian University recently spoke about preparing to enter the field during the pandemic. 

Junior Emma Lenthe said vaccine mandates have been “controversial.”

“It’s definitely something people are hesitant to talk about,” Lenthe said. “But as a health care worker you have to follow what they are telling you to do and that’s just part of the profession.”

Moravian University doesn’t have a mandate, but fellow nursing student Elise Keeney said she still got vaxxed.

“I just do my part to protect myself but also protect the people I’m working with,” Keeney said.

Another vaccine mandate is approaching for area nurses. Lehigh Valley Health Network has a deadline of Nov. 12. 

Michael Peckman, LVHN’s director of marketing and public affairs, is proud of the network’s employees.

“Nearly 99% of our workforce has been vaccinated,” Peckman said. “LVHN colleagues are doing the right thing to keep themselves and our community healthy.”

Peckman said LVHN anticipates very few resignations.

WLVR Reporter Genesis Ortega contributed to this report. 

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