By Cherri Lindquist, BSN, RN, CCM, clinical nurse manager of Company Nurse LLC
The new year has brought hope for our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing is becoming more accessible, including testing at pharmacies, mass testing sites, and at-home tests. While the COVID-19 vaccine’s distribution has not been off to its expected start, millions have already received the vaccine and plans to ramp up vaccination distributions are evolving quickly.
With proper testing and vaccination management, you can keep track of which employees have been vaccinated and tested (and their results) to help create and maintain a healthy workplace.
Here are considerations for developing proper testing and vaccination management for your organization.
Considerations for Your Organization before Mandating COVID-19 Testing and Vaccinations
As COVID-19 testing and vaccines become more accessible, many organizations are asking the same question: Can COVID-19 testing and vaccinations be mandatory for employees?
As Company Nurse President Paul Binsfeld discusses in his article Workers’ Comp Trends of 2021, employers need to be cautious when they “mandate” and/or incentivize health decisions for employees.
When it comes to COVID-19 testing, mandatory testing active COVID-19 (PCR) illness (not an antibody test) is in alignment with EEOC guidance.
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, AP News reports that employers can mandate the COVID-19 vaccine as a “safety measure.” However, this comes with exceptions for medical and religious reasons, as well as other caveats. Your organization will need to take into consideration state and local guidelines, as well as other applicable regulations. Learn more in this statement from the EEOC.
Also consider your employees’ roles. If your employees hold positions that allow them to work from home, do you really need to mandate their vaccinations?
Keep in mind that requiring or incentivizing vaccinations can put your organization at risk for liability. If adverse reactions to the vaccine occur, especially if you are incentivizing employees to get vaccinated while “on the clock,” your organization may be setting itself up for compensable claims. As always, consult with legal counsel before making such major decisions.
Whether or not your organization mandates COVID-19 testing of its employees, it is and will continue to be important to track testing and results of employees who are tested. This can help your organization create and maintain a healthy workplace.
Keep in mind, a robust testing management system can help with contact tracing. The sooner you know of an exposure, the more effective contact tracing is.
So, what should you include in your COVID-19 testing management? Some important factors to consider are how to:
- Alert and remind employees to complete their tests and retests (if required) on a certain date.
- Record both testing and re-testing dates and results.
- Record test results in a way that protects your employees’ personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI). A spreadsheet stored on your HR Director’s desktop is not the safest way to store this information, nor is it compliant. Make sure you have a system that protects your employees’ information and your organization from litigation.
Company Nurse understands these needs of its clients and makes it easy for organizations to report and manage testing in its screen by Company Nurse Admin Portal.
Like COVID-19 testing management, even if you do not require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is important to have vaccination management in place to monitor the health of your workplace.
When implementing vaccination management, your organization will need to consider how to:
- Remind employees of when and where to receive their vaccinations.
- Report and verify vaccinations and record if both the first and second doses were received.
- Protect employees’ PII and PHI. Again, you should not rely on a spreadsheet stored on your HR Director’s desktop.
For a seamless COVID-19 management experience, Company Nurse includes vaccination management along with screening and testing management in its screen by Company Nurse Admin Portal.
Please note: You should keep screening records separate from employee files and consult with legal counsel when implementing screening, testing, and/or vaccination management.