nurse preparing vaccine
Having the tough conversations
by Brandi Kurtyka

Millions of Americans have already eagerly rolled up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but a significant number of others remain hesitant to get vaccinated or reject the idea altogether.

These days, many home health agencies, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care organizations are requiring the vaccine. The federal government has also weighed in with a health care vaccine mandate—as have some states—but how that will look is still being determined. With an already small workforce and low vaccination rates among frontline health care workers, the homecare labor pool is shrinking, not expanding.

The entire senior care industry is facing the worst labor shortage to this point in history. Not only are not enough new people entering the workforce, but existing staff are leaving for higher wages in other industries, due to burnout and/or their unwillingness to get the vaccine.

The Importance of Conversation

There is a lot of merit in learning how to navigate vaccine conversations, as some people remain hesitant due to a lack of education and information and may still be convinced. If homecare leaders are able to build bridges with their vaccine-hesitant caregivers and office staff, more people will remain in the industry.

Having a productive conversation with someone about the vaccine at this point in the game isn’t easy, however. Some people are beyond “low hanging fruit” conversations, and many are finding it difficult to navigate conversations with loved ones or employees who have divergent views about the vaccine, as well as social situations involving those with different vaccination statuses.

At, we’ve created a One-On-One Vaccine Conversation Guide with steps to having a productive conversation, along with tips to help business owners develop strategies for talking about the vaccine. The goal is to inspire new thinking and conversations to keep people safe—and hopefully bring an end the pandemic. Here’s a small excerpt.

Steps To Having a Productive Conversation

  1. Know your audience. The more you understand about a person before heading into a conversation, the better. Are you talking with someone who is scared, has had a bad experience, has never been vaccinated before, is taking a political stance on the vaccine, etc.? The more you know, the better prepared you will be to pick a strategy.
  2. Learn & listen before talking. Validate why you think an individual is hesitant to get a vaccine. Acknowledge their concerns and learn the reasons behind their thinking. Then you can pick your strategy and your next step in the conversation.
  3. Start the conversation. Lead a personalized dialogue. Each person is unique and so is each conversation.
  4. Share a personal story about why you got the shot. Go beyond the science and share the “why” behind your own decision to be vaccinated. Did you do it to keep others safe? Are you ready to shut the door on the pandemic? Sometimes, hearing why you got the shot can be more powerful than stories about why people are not getting the shot.
  5. Let them win & offer a next-step resource for consideration. This isn’t a conversation about someone being right and someone being wrong. Let the other person feel heard and validate their position. End the conversation on a happy note with a resource for them to turn to if they’d like to learn more about getting the vaccine.

This approach is useful to many organizations and professionals struggling with how to take a difficult conversation to the next level. The one-on-one conversation guide contains also specific recommendations on how to approach a conversation based on a person’s objections, from concerns about drug development to side-effect fears and more. The full guide can be accessed at

Brandi Kurtyka is CEO of, a national recruitment solution built for companies to tap into the largest network of caregivers, home health aides and certified nursing assistants in the nation.