Nursing Ethics: About The Weather - page 2

Winter is over here, and summer is on its way. I count myself to be fortunate in the extreme that I didn't have to stay overnight at the hospital this winter. Yet it seemed to snow every single... Read More

  1. by   systoly
    Where I live, we had two snow storms this winter. The first one dumped 12 inches of snow - no problem. The second one, six days later dumped another 14 inches plus ice. I have a full size truck, posi track and all and I got stuck three times on a 100 yard stretch of road. I guess that's why snow plows weren't operating, the police said if you get on the road don't call us and ambulance services stated, "we will try to get to you, but we cannot guarantee we'll make it. The facility my wife works for wanted her to come to work. She said I cannot make it, but I'll be happy to come in and stay if necessary if you can pick me up. The response, "Oh we can't do that, our 4WD truck is stuck."
  2. by   SunDazed
    This is an interesting discussion... I am one who is likely to make it in, no matter what. I also live a few minutes away from the hospital because I absolutely hate commuting in city traffic. We have plenty of RNs at our hospital who live 45 minutes to 2 hours away, in good driving weather without traffic. When the roads are icy or snowy, travel time for everyone can absolutely double or triple. I know they have come into the big city hospital because they want to make more money or get different experience than what the local community hospitals or SNFs provide. I agree though, that it is their choice. They should be aware of some issues that might arise due to their commute.

    I have switched shifts on short notice with coworkers from the country that are worried about weather. I don't have a problem doing it. Basically, if they are snowed out, well then I'm snowed in. Know what I mean? I do like when they can be realistic about how much notice they want to give me. If the severe weather alert is on for three days and it has not stopped snowing in 36 hours, do I really have to wait until 4 to know if you need me to cover for you the next shift too? Really?

    A lot of emotion boils up though. Angst expressed by some nurses who claim so and so lives further out and they made it in... so the other nurse must be fibbing or chicken or whatever, I guess unethical is the original post? Distrust of others can become an issue, leading to breakdown of teamwork in the unit. I guess I would rather have people call in than get killed. In these tough economic times, some of my coworkers do have junkers that I suspect are unsafe in winter driving conditions. I find it harder to respect the nurse who has a "sick child" call every single time the weather is obviously bad. Really? Because that seems to much of a co-inky-dinky.

    In the big scheme of things, there are folks who rarely/never call in and then it is a long, slippery slope of personal opinion of when it is okay to call in... weather, mental health days, did not get the day off you asked for, hangnail... How about recent discussion about coming in versus staying home when you are sick... anyone guilty of that?

    Our hospital has recently stiffened the unexcused absence policy... fewer allowed in 90 days and also fewer over a year. We'll see if any of the big offenders are let go. Unexcused absences here include weather, sick, sick child, sick parent, car breakdown, house fire... anything. The unfair part is that the manager has discretion. This is when I think we would benefit by a union. I would think the hospital would be opening itself up to lawsuits if policies are not enforced evenly across the board. Just saying... possible claims of harassment?
  3. by   billyboblewis
    It is the hospital's responsibility to have a disaster plan ready.
  4. by   llg
    I like my hospital's approach. It's a good "middle ground compromise." They understand that there are a few people and extreme circumstances that can prevent people from coming in at times. They always remind people not to take foolish risks. However, we DO expect people to plan ahead ... to be prepared to come in early if bad weather is known to be approaching ... to stay late if the next shift cannot get in ... to sleep here on those rare ocassions that it is necessary. Those who can't be here during the worst of the weather are expected to clear their personal calendars so that they can relieve those who got stuck at the hospital and give them some recovery time. That takes away some of the incentive to stay home unnecessarily.

    While there are always a few grumblers in the group, most people think it is a reasonable and fair approach.
  5. by   gentlegiver
    Quote from ruby vee
    if *i* can ski two miles, just about anyone can do it -- i have bad knees and a bad back and i'm old and fat! of course you have to have the equipment at home already.
    i tried skiing once. i fell down, broke my ski's, fractured my leg, and almost broke my friends leg (saddly, i was on the bunny slope). now if the river freezes up i can skate accross, i could ride my snow-mobile (if they were allowed on the road), but then i live on top of a mountian, i work in the valley (a 30 minute drive on a good day). i try my hardest to get to work for my shift, but, when the roads are solid ice, 4 wheel drive does you no good. could i show up a day early? yes, but usually (at least around here) they forcast 4 to 6 inches, which is nothing for my truck. what we get can be anywhere from 8 to 12 with an ice base and the plows have trouble plowing & sanding because it's all down hill!!!!! to say nothing of the trees that can't handle the weight of the snow and come crashing to the ground, usually accross the road and powerlines! in 6 years living here i have only called out 2 times due to the weather, once when my 4 wheel drive truck was going down the mountian sideways, and once after an ice storm that left me with no power for 2 weeks due to trees falling and blocking the roads. if i can't make it to work, i can't make it, period. and yes i will spend that night in front of my fireplace drinking a hot chocolate! because i spent most of the day trying to get to work and i'm tired and cold! that said i always tell prospective employers about where i live and the possibilities of having to call out. no one has turned me down yet.
  6. by   RN1980
    i would have no issue reporting to work or even staying over night to staff if managers and administration would be there to, if i can take the risk they can too.
  7. by   SunDazed
    Quote from SunDazed
    Our hospital has recently stiffened the unexcused absence policy... fewer allowed in 90 days and also fewer over a year. We'll see if any of the big offenders are let go. Unexcused absences here include weather, sick, sick child, sick parent, car breakdown, house fire... anything. The unfair part is that the manager has discretion. This is when I think we would benefit by a union. I would think the hospital would be opening itself up to lawsuits if policies are not enforced evenly across the board. Just saying... possible claims of harassment?
    I have been thinking about this part of my post, esp. after what llg wrote about allowances for extreme circumstances... I really like what that hospital is doing. I like the culture that expects those out, due to weather, to come in when the storm is over if needed. The issue we run into on our unit, is that that last unexcused absence was really unavoidable... so should probably be forgiven, even though the manager could now fire the staff member based on policy. However, the guilty party has already used up all the potential goodwill with the 3-4 other unexcused absences in the last 90 days. Somehow it is not just one 90 day stretch where things were always happening... but perpetually being one absence away from a pink slip for years.

    I guess I treat that goodwill as a rainy day fund... some people seem to burn through it like it's free money. Discretion might be good then...
  8. by   sjt9721
    Quote from Purple_Scrubs
    What about the people who do not live in areas where snow is common? This year in North Texas we had one of the worst storms on record...schools were cancelled for a week! Thankfully I'm a school nurse so I didn't have a decision to make, but if I had been working in a hospital, there is no way I could have made it in. I could not get out of my driveway, much less down the hill that leads to the Interstate. And before anyone says I could have gone in early...1) it was not predicted to be anywhere near as bad as it was, and no one was prepared for what really happened, and 2) not without pay, which the hospitals around here don't offer. I'm a nurse, not a martyr.
    And because the schools were closed, both my daycares were closed. My husband & I work at the same place so we took turns staying home with the kiddos.

    I was always that person that made it in no-matter-what. But since having children, if their care providers are closed, one of us has no choice but to stay home.
  9. by   Who?Me?
    "Roads close. If your response is "you should have come to work a day early and slept here," you'd better be paying me enough to justify it. It is not professional to work for free."

    But it is expected by many organizations. I have worked for orgs that gave staff meals and a "per diem" for sleeping at the hospital in the event of bad weather and I have worked for those that have fired nurses for not showing up with 24+ inches of snow on the streets and even the snowplow drivers stayed home in bed!

    Patients need care, but they need living, breathing nurses to perform that care.
  10. by   pfongk
    This one hits fairly close to home for me. In February this year, the nursing home I worked at was evacuated due to predicted 18m storm surges due to cyclone Yasi. I was at the nursing home for the actual evacuation on the Tuesday and I was meant to work the Thursday am but I was unable to get in as it was just too dangerous to drive. I texted my boss at midnight to say that I didn't think it would be safe for me to get there. I was then asked that afternoon to come in and work a 24 hour shift by head office in Brisbane, they decided to exempt me though due to the fact that I had an 11 month old who was still being breastfed and I'd lost all of my expressed milk from the power failure so I would have needed to bring him with me. If we'd had to evacuate all the residents to Brisbane though which we would have done if the nursing home had been destroyed I had informed them that I was able to go to Brisbane to help care for them as I had family down there to look after them. I do agree though that some people call out due to the weather at the drop of a hat.
  11. by   Psychtrish39
    This one is a hard one for me I live in the lowlands of Washington state and when it snows here the whole Sound goes into panic mode and the people wreck and crash in a inch of snow. I kid you not. I once lived in a small town called Roy and drove to work in Puyallup with 507 iced over and was only 20 minutes late to work. There were people I worked with who lived in Puyallup who didnt come in. I lived in Oklahoma at one time and I made it in to work during an ice storm then I got to stay there fror 16 hours straight. I went home that night and because I wasnt scheduled to work I didnt come in the next day the DNS ended up working and she quit. I firmly believe if it is safe I go but I am not killing my car or myself to get to work if the roads aren't cleared. I am obligated to show up for my shifts and do but it is not worth dying for when no one else you work with would do it for you. I guess that is where the rub is.
  12. by   tralalaRN
    I don't agree. This was an issue for a nurse in D.C. following the blizzard that dumped 3 feet of snow there one day last year. How in the hell was she supposed to get to work in 3 feet of snow? Granted, this was an extreme case, but the hospital did fire this nurse, but she did sue and got her job back with back pay. There are just some cases where the weather truly is just too bad for someone to get to their job. And it is a JOB - it is not worth risking your life, and if the conditions are 3 feet of snow, it is life-threatening.
  13. by   cbreuklander
    I agree that when you take a job it is your responsibility to try to get to work when possible. I do not agree that I am of more use to my patients dead than missing one shift and then being back at work alive and well. We passed nursing school and NCLEX by using good judgement. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our patients.

    That said, if the county closes the road while I am sleeping because of an ice storm, there is no way anyone in their right mind is going to expect me to be out sliding around to try to get to work. The people who are at work have no business trying to get home. So there you have it. Some nurses work a double shift to stay safe, some stay home to be safe. Patients are taken care of. I have stayed to work a double because of road conditions just as many times as I have missed a shift .