CHARLOTTE, N.C. — September 15 was the self-imposed deadline Novant Health had for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and the ones who choose not get it face an unclear path with their employment. 

What You Need To Know

  • Some healthcare employees who weren’t granted exemptions don’t plan to get the vaccine

  • September 15 was the deadline for Novant Health employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine

  • The healthcare workers said their future with the healthcare system is unclear, but they are ready to look for other job options if they are mandated to get the vaccine

On Tuesday, the day before the deadline, Novant Senior Vice President and Chief Safety, Quality and Epidemiology Officer David Priest said 95% of their employees were vaccinated. 

“Our team members have really stepped up, and just like they have for the last 19 months, they put the care and safety of our patients first,” Priest said. 

On Wednesday evening, a group of Novant healthcare workers who didn’t get vaccinated by the deadline, including nurse Laura Rushing, met in Charlotte to support one another. 

“It just helps me not to feel alone to know I have friends who support my decision,” Rushing said. 

Rushing said she’s not trying to be selfish.

“I do care, I’m in a healthcare profession. I care about people but [the shot] is not worth it to me,” Rushing said. 

She’s fearful of the side effects that could be associated with getting the shot. 

“For me, there is just a lot of unknowns about the risks, what could potentially happen. Sure you can take it and nothing happens but what if I’m the one who takes it, heaven forbid I die or I’m incapacitated. I’m a single mom,” Rushing said. 

Priest said most patients in Novant's intensive care units are unvaccinated. 

“A vaccine or vaccination continues to be our best protection from severe COVID-19 disease hospitalization,” Priest said. 

On Wednesday, Rushing was unclear about her employment status at the Charlotte hospital.

“They’re putting us on inactive employment status or suspension. I haven’t officially resigned, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The single mom living in Monroe said she never imagined this would be the way she would leave the healthcare system.

“I’m feeling sad. I planned on retiring from Novant. I worked there for 16 years,” Rushing said. 

Rushing and Nanette Petersen, another Novant employee, both applied to receive exemptions to get the vaccine but were denied. 

They said they both love their jobs, but they are not willing to get the shot. 

For Petersen, the reasons for not getting the vaccine are political, medical and spiritual.

“This is not the same as having all the other vaccines that we've been around for years. It's not the same. This is a new one, so I want to see what happens,” Petersen said. 

If Rushing has to leave her job, she’s thinking about looking into other healthcare jobs that don’t require the vaccine. If that’s not a possibility, she’s willing to go into another profession. 

“I’ll find another career, I'll find a different job, if need be, but that's how strongly I feel about not taking this shot,” Rushing said. 

As of Thursday Morning, Novant Health had not announced the number of unvaccinated employees without exemptions or their employment status.