With the polar vortex sweeping most of the country recently, many nurses may have found themselves trudging to their shift in bad weather. Although this is nothing new for us, it should be noted that it takes strategy when confronting cold, wind, snow, and rain.
Unlike other professions that can miss a day when the snow hits or work from home when the cold gets to be too much, nurses have to find a way to make it in. Sometimes, we do this at the risk of our safety and certainly our health in weather so bad.
Many nurses take to the road in all conditions without a second thought, but it helps to think ahead and prepare for bad weather. This doesn’t just mean snow, either – it can be Arctic cold, hurricane force winds, flooding rain, or even earthquakes.
Nurses, as with most things in the profession, have to be prepared for the unexpected, or patients may go without the care they desperately need.
Bad Weather Equipment
Your first consideration in your bad weather arsenal is your car. You need a car that is capable of safely traveling in the extremes of conditions that are common around your region.
If you live in a snowy area, I can’t recommend an SUV or all-wheel drive vehicle highly enough. However, you should also have snow tires on your car and be prepared for icy conditions, especially when the seasons are changing.
Even rain can cause a problem, so it is helpful to have good tires that can prevent hydroplaning. Essentially, a solidly built car with good tires, new windshield wipers, and up to date inspection should get you through the worst conditions.
In addition, you should carry shovels, blankets, extra water, and warm clothing in case of a breakdown. A car club membership and a cell phone will also allow you to get yourself out of hairy weather situations.
Bad Weather Strategies
You have to plan for bad weather because, unless you live in Hawaii, you’re going to encounter it at some point. Have a backup plan for your kids if they are called off school so that you can get to your shift.
When you finally do set out from your house, you should dress for the elements. It’s easier to just trudge around in your nursing shoes, but you will be happier if you have snow boots or galoshes to change once you get on the unit.
Driving strategies are important, too. In ice, you should go easy on the accelerator and the brake, as either can make you spin out in snowy, icy weather.
Don’t believe that you are invincible in a giant truck with snow tires, either. Although these cars will help you get going in the snow or through a rain puddle, they are often not any more effective in stopping or fording deep water than smaller cars.
Calling In for Bad Weather
No one wants to call in for bad weather. It leaves the unit short, makes the nurses who did make it in resentful, and generally leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
However, sometimes, it is not avoidable. Recently, a friend who drives two hours to get to work had to call off in blizzard-like conditions because her main route was closed to traffic.
Nurses have a sense of toughness when it comes to showing up for work, but you really should consider your safety. If roads are closed, the conditions are treacherous, or accidents are happening nearby, it may be worth your coworkers’ anger to take the shift off.
It is a difficult and personal decision to call in for bad weather. You have to decide if the risk of getting to work is as high as it may seem, if you can safely navigate it, and if you can get to work without putting your own life at risk.