There are no snow days off for nurses. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That sounds like a nursing job description, but it is from the US Postal Service. At least they get off Sundays and holidays. In extreme weather, they don’t actually have to make their rounds. It’s a safety issue. Not so for nurses.
No Snow Days off for Nurses
There are no snow days off for nurses. Patients still get sick when it snows. Babies love to make their first appearances in any kind of storm. People try to shovel snow and get chest pain. The hospital is open 24/7/365 and we have to be there to staff it.
I had to laugh when I saw this picture of nurses shoveling a hospital entry. We’ll be doing that next. Nurses fill in as a Jack of all trades. If the clerks don’t make it in, we answer phones, schedule cases, make charts, and call for supplies. If the housekeeping staff doesn’t show, we wash stretchers and beds, empty linen and trash, turn over OR rooms, and mop the floors. Just like the old days. Cafeteria closed due to the weather and workers calling out? No worries, we bring enough food to feed ourselves and our coworkers for the duration of the storm. We’re there, because there are no snow days off for nurses.
Before the Storm
We watch the weather reports nonstop. We stress over having to sleep at the hospital and for how many days until our relief shows up. We buy tons of food and bring most of it to work, and worry what and if our families will eat. Will the power go out? Will they be warm enough? What if they get sick and we’re not there? Where will the nurses sleep? Is there going to be a place to shower? How tired will we be, working long shifts and rotating sleep time off? Do i have enough books downloaded? The planning and anxiety never stop.
I think about what I’m going to miss, and have missed for all the years of my nursing career. The kids playing in the snow, making snow angels and snow men, and drinking hot chocolate by the fire. I’ll miss the beauty of the storm. I’ll miss sitting in my favorite chair, sipping tea or wine, reading a good book (or writing a good book) while the flakes fall softly and silently past the window.
Heading to Work
The flakes are just starting to fall. The weather report is ominous. The State announces roads are closed. Everybody should stay home until the snow event has passed and roads are cleared. Oh! I can’t go to work. Nobody is allowed on the roads. Phew. But then I remember the two words printed on the back of my ID badge: “Essential Personnel”. When I first got my ID badge I was proud to be considered “essential”. What a silly new nurse I was. It just means you have to go to work no matter what. Arrive in advance of the bad weather, if that’s what it takes to get you there for your shifts. So I fill my backpack with essentials and get in the car.
At the Hospital, Labor & Delivery
Our labor and delivery unit is busy, but once these babies are delivered very few new patients arrive. No longer allowed to choose which hospital in the snow, laboring ladies take ambulances to the nearest hospital, not necessarily ours.
Out of the chaos caused by the storm beautiful things happen. Visitors aren’t able to get to the hospital. The new moms and dads are able to take advantage of the baby-friendly hospital initiative and enjoy skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding during the first hour after birth. No interruptions by a mother, mother-in-law, sister, father, friend, etc., all excited to see the baby but not understanding what the new parents and baby are missing. Labor, delivery, and post-delivery nursing care the way it was meant to be!
I would add a picture of us all gathered around smiling and laughing, but don’t want to invade their right to privacy. I’ll say if you ever find yourself snowed in for a long period of time away from your family, these are the people you want to keep you company. My coworkers are awesome. The nurses and resident physicians I have the pleasure of working with are smart, funny, and caring people. We can make any event a party and find fun in any situation. I love my work family. They’re a big part of the reason I’ve stayed at this job for nearly thirty years. (And the rest of the extended staff, too.)
Snow Event Over, Time to go Home
I wasn’t near a window during the entire storm, so I have no idea what happened out there save the occasional weather news on a patient’s television. I went to work in the dark when the flakes started falling and left two days later when it was dark again, roads plowed, and ice melted from sun earlier in the day. What did I really miss (if a tree falls in the forest, but there’s nobody there to hear…)? My family, sure, but I always miss them. Despite my doom and gloom view of what the storm would bring, I found camaraderie, fun, and laughter with my coworkers. And I wouldn’t miss that for the world.
There are no snow days off for nurses. And that’s okay.
A Snow Funny Bunny
Just because I thought this was hilarious.