Flu Information for Healthcare Workers

At certain healthcare facilities in Rhode Island, healthcare workers are required to either be vaccinated against the flu annually, or wear surgical masks when the Director of Health declares flu to be widespread. (See below for the facilities in which this requirement applies.) This requirement applies to people who are temporarily or permanently employed, students, and people who volunteer at healthcare facilities.

This includes physicians (while at a facility, but not in private offices), physician assistants, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists (psychotherapist, occupational, physical, speech), technicians, clinicians, behavior analysts, social workers, EMTs (while at a facility), dental personnel (while at a facility, but not in private offices), pharmacists, lab personnel, students, trainees, those with privileges at a facility, and any other staff (including administrative staff) who have direct patient contact.

Direct patient contact is all routinely anticipated face-to-face contact with patients, such as:

  • Speaking with a patient in person;
  • Entering a patient’s room;
  • Transporting a patient throughout a facility;
  • Handing out medications;
  • Performing a procedure on a patient;
  • Working in a cafeteria line or serving food to a patient;
  • Participating in group patient activities.

What Healthcare Workers Should Do

Get vaccinated against the flu

Vaccination against the flu is the best method to prevent the spread of infection. Healthcare workers at certain types of facilities who refuse to be vaccinated must sign declination forms. The facilities where healthcare works must sign declination forms if they are not vaccinated are:

  • Community health centers
  • Free-standing emergency care facilities
  • Home nursing care providers
  • Hospice care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Kidney treatment centers
  • Nursing facilities
  • Nursing service agencies
  • Free-standing ambulatory surgical centers
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • School-based health centers

Declination forms should be kept in employees' personnel files. They should not be sent to the Department of Health.

Wear a surgical mask if you are not vaccinated

Healthcare workers at the facilities listed above who have not been vaccinated against the flu are required to wear surgical masks when involved in direct patient contact if the Director of Health declares flu to be widespread.

Surgical masks must be worn by unvaccinated healthcare workers even if they have filed medical exemptions or refusals with their employers.

  • Mask are only required during direct patient contact.
  • Replace a mask if it becomes damaged.
  • Remove a worn mask and discard it into general trash, and then perform hand hygiene.
  • Unvaccinated EMTs employed by private ambulance servicea must wear masks when they enter healthcare facilities.
  • Unvaccinated doctors with privileges at healthcare facilities must wear masks at facilities during direct patient contact during periods of widespread influenza (even though they do not have to wear masks at their private offices).

What we are doing

Monitoring healthcare worker vaccination rates

Healthcare facility managers report their healthcare worker vaccination rates to the Deparment of Health.

Taking action to protect patient safety

Healthcare workers are at increased risk for getting sick and passing the flu to patients. It may be more difficult for these patients to recover. For this reason, unvaccinated healthcare workers who violate the masking requirement are subject to fines.