nurse_child_bear_sm.jpgThe Florida Institute of Technology conducted a survey of 1,000 randomly selected adults to find out their attitudes towards autism and to the safety of vaccines for child illnesses.  The study found that nearly 1 in 4 (24%) of the adults surveyed believed that because of links to autism, it was safer not to vaccinate children.

The article on this survey is posted here at

Clearly, medical professionals are not doing enough to combat this knowledge deficit.  As study after study releases results that there is not clear link to autism for child vaccines, you would think that parents would begin to get the point but this internet myth has become so pervasive that it has taken on a life of its own.  Part of the problem is the way that scientists and researchers speak when they are interviewed.

Understanding Scientist Speak – What is “Unlikely?”

Many scientists are reluctant to use the words impossible when referring to something that can’t happen under normal circumstances.  They will instead use words like “unlikely” or “not very probable” when referring to something they are studying.  This is because in science there are very few absolutes.  What they really mean is that the odds are too long for me to even bother to calculate — in other words, as close to impossible as I’m willing to admit.

Ask a scientist if the earth is going to explode tomorrow and you will get the same answer, “its unlikely.” What they really mean is “you are being ridiculous,” and “stop wasting my time by making me calculate something with so little chance of happening.”

Of course, we can’t call our patients ridiculous.  Insult them and they’ll stop listening to what we say.

5 Tips for Nurses on Patient Communication and Education

What can we do about helping people understand the dangers in not vaccinating their children? I’ve made a list below of some of my tips for this issue:

  1. Become Knowledgable – use resources at sites like and the National Institutes of Health.  They have many good articles about this issue.  Use them to educate yourself about what has been studied and how the research has arrived at their conclusions.
  2. Become a Patient Advocate – show how much you care and they will care how much you know. Educate them so that they can make an informed decision about their child’s health.
  3. Treat Them With Respect – these parents are not making these decisions because they want to hurt their children.  The parents are afraid of making a decision that will hurt them.
  4. Communication Skills Rule – take the time to find out what they know and don’t know.  Find out their arguments for and against vaccination.  Use open ended questions to help them flesh out their concerns and to direct them to resources they can trust.  Review communication skills and listen to this episode of the Nursing Show.
  5. Community Outreach – write your local newspaper, radio, and TV stations. Offer to talk to community groups.  Publish a newsletter from your facility to your community.
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