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Communication skills when working with patients in outpatient care

Mladen Vladimirov, psychologist: “Communication with patients for vaccination against COVID-19 is the key to an informed decision of hesitant patients.”

Where do we get information from, how do we talk about vaccines and what are the fears of patients are some of the topics that were discussed in a professional discussion on communication with patients and the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19. The event is part of a series of seminars that will be held throughout the country and are aimed at medical professionals in outpatient care.

The discussions look for practical benefits and exchange of experience, present a concept for communication with patients who are hesitant to get vaccinated, as well as information about the duration of immunity after infection and vaccination, indications and contraindications for immunization, incl. for patients with comorbidities that sometimes cause the patient’s hesitation and fears.

Psychologist Mladen Vladimirov presented in depth through specific examples the topic of studying the fears and anxieties of patients who have hesitations about vaccines against coronavirus. “When it comes to changing the attitudes of large groups of people, there are always expected to be pro- and anti-minded people,” said the psychologist, adding that these professional seminars seek ways to understand those hesitant citizens, some call the collective “anti-vaxers”. “We need to stay at the level of their interests and needs so that we can understand them and guide them through the path from fear to an informed decision to get vaccinated,” Vladimirov said. He stressed that both people who want to be vaccinated and people who do not want to do so have the same basis – the desire to protect personal health and the health of loved ones.

An important part of the big topic of vaccination is its psychological side – when and why we become aggressive, what worries us, when we worry, why there is hypochondria. We bring these topics to the attention of outpatients in order to enrich the range of tools with which first-line physicians can work with their patients. We are opening up a space where we can talk and think about vaccines in a slightly different way, even if these seminars seem overdue to some.

The other hosts of the event were Prof. Radostina Alexandrova, virologist from BAS and Assoc. Prof. Milena Karcheva, epidemiologist from the Medical University – Pleven. According to Prof. Alexandrova, at least three more challenges await us regarding COVID-19. The first is that the virus will remain among us, so we must prove that we can live with it. Surely many people will wonder if they will need to be vaccinated every year. The second is that we will face the challenges of the so-called postcovid and the third is that this is the third new coronavirus since 2002, and when there were three, the door could always be open for a fourth.

Assoc. Prof. Karcheva, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health and Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology, Parasitology and Tropical Medicine at MU – Pleven presented the importance of vaccination in terms of public health and epidemiology. She drew a parallel between COVID-19 and other infectious diseases that have in the past caused isolated outbreaks, and then presented the extremely low incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines.

The host of the event Prof. Dobromir Dimitrov – Rector of MU-Pleven warned about the risk of a second peak in the fifth wave of the epidemic and stressed that we allowed the wave of misinformation about vaccination against COVID-19 to flood Bulgarian society. According to the rector, social and some social media have become a platform for unprofessional, unethical and non-expert opinions, ie. many people expressed their opinions without relying on scientific literature and scientific data.

“I believe that medical conservatism in Bulgaria has also played a role. It has always existed, but now in the years of the pandemic, many people working in the field of healthcare have not been able to adapt, to set their watches on the wave – quickly and up-to-date scientific data on the situation we are in, and talked about principle for his knowledge in the field of virology and epidemiology “, said to journalists Prof. Dimitrov during the event.

Doctors in the hall shared some cases that are raised by patients, such as how long after the illness a vaccine can be given. National guidelines in Bulgaria recommend that this be done 3 months after illness. “Physicians must have social protection in the workplace,” said another doctor, referring to the difficult conditions in which medics work. Assoc. Prof. Mariela Kamburova, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Public Health reminded that when we talk about vaccination, we must put it in the context of public health, which she said was left in the background as a concept during the pandemic.

Guests of the event were Dr. Ilian Minchev, Director of RHI-Pleven, Dr. Rositsa Milcheva, Director of RHI-Lovech, employees of the Regional Administration-Pleven, as well as the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria.

The initiative is part of a national program that is being implemented in all 28 districts of the country. It is organized by the Astra Forum Foundation, together with the national offices of the World Health Organization and UNICEF for Bulgaria, with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and with the support of the Ministry of Health, the Bulgarian Medical Union and the Center for Analysis and Crisis Communications.

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