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Nurses' safety critical in bad weather


Nurses have been advised to do their best to get to work during the current bad weather, but have been reminded that they should make their own safety a high priority.

The RCN has issued guidance for nurses that they should contact their local manager for advice on whether they should attempt to report for work and to check their local inclement weather policies.

The advice says that staff should make ‘every reasonable effort’ to get to work, but that they should also consider their personal safety and pay attention to local weather warnings and police advice.

Nurses may be expected to take annual leave or make up time at a later date if they cannot get into work because of the freezing weather, but the RCN suggests that staff ask if they can use time that is already owed to them, or take the time off as unpaid leave.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin, said: “Employers should look at this in terms of goodwill and recognise the extra hours that healthcare staff work throughout the year without pay, which was seen in our recent RCN employment survey.

“There is no legal requirement to pay someone if they are unable to get into work, although there may be local policies that allow for this.”


Readers' comments (26)

  • We have had numerous global e-mails to remind us that we should make our way in to work and only if the trust are satisfied that we have tried everything to get in will not be made to take the time off as annual leave or dock us a days pay. It has made a lot of nurses in the trust angry and disappointed that we are being treated like idiots and not professionals. Some of the staff walked for 2 hours each way to get in yesterday as there was no public transport and could not dig cars out. I did a 16 hour day and when they put on free food for staff I still couldn't eat as they didn't provide food for a gluten and dairy free diet for staff.

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  • With regard to the above comment - it is no wonder that some nurses are treated as idiots.
    I travelled through horrendous conditions to make my way to work yesterday morning as I knew the patients were relying on me. I allowed double my usual time to get there and I did.
    Part way through my shift I took a phone call from one of my colleagues saying that she would not be in for the backshift due to the weather. I pointed out that there was still several hours till she had to leave and the weather was improving but she said no she wouldn't attempt it. I asked if I could manage to find someone else to do the shift would she cover one of that persons shifts later in the week. The answer was that she was off at the weekend and didn't want to lose her days off.
    I had to work an extended shift because of this before attempting to travel home.
    However the roads were considerably better and I managed to drive home in only 15 minutes longer than normal. At no time did I feel the roads were remotely unpassable. Others coming up at lunch time said the roads were much improved.
    Where do I stay - 4 miles further from the hospital past her house with her car sitting on the main road.
    That is why we are treated like idiots because some can't be bothered making any effort.

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  • People should be working together and not back stabbing each other. Some people genuinely are unable to get out of small villages that have not seen gritters.
    On the whole nurses feel guilty if they can't get to their patients and are letting colleagues down.
    Some of my team have walked in and walked their rounds, some have fallen on the ice, others have crashed their vehicles.
    Some of us do not work in walking distance of our places of work.
    Our District Nurses have done their best to provide a service to vulnerable patients as have our managers.
    But sometimes you cannot be a martyr!!

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  • As a community twilight nurse I have found myself becoming very uncomfortable during my attempts to arrive at my patients houses. The roads are incredibly dangerous and I have feared for my personal safety during these times. However I have arrived and treated my patients successfully and although glad of that I do feel that the confidence to drive in the snow and ice is a personal and indivdual issue.
    Ultimately if someone doesn't feel that they would be able to drive safely in such conditions then that should be respected. People die in icy road conditions and adequate driving precautions should be made. If a person doesn't feel safe driving then DON'T DRIVE!!
    Other professions wouldn't dream of putting themselves at risk in bad weather - shops shutting, schools closing, limited public transport. We are nurses not superheroes and personal levels of security should be respected. I think that a collegues inability to drive in bad conditions should be respected and worked with as a team... rather than seen as 'not being bothered'

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  • I attempted to get to work today in my car but after losing control twice due to the ice I decided that my personal safety was paramount. I feel frustrated that the councils are unable to grit the main roads well enough to make them safe. If I could walk to work I would however 20 miles is too far to consider doing that. However I still feel guilty for not being able to be there for my patients even though it is really not my fault.

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  • I live 3 miles from my work place. I attempted to drive however, I live in an estate that has not seen a gritter. The result was I crashed my car (slowly!) into a wall. I was advised to walk to work, However, the pavements are treacherous and having seen numerous injuries related to falls this week I was at a loss!
    I have taken Annual leave instead, and yes I do feel as though I have let my patients down, but it is not through my lack of effort.

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  • I guess its more a case of people being flexible during this bad weather rather than making people drive when they feel unable to.

    I think people who are unable to get to work should be more prepared to swap the shift with someone who lives nearer or is more confident in the weather conditions rather than just expecting a day off. Everyone has to change plans and swap arrangements around during these times and everyone should be willing to do so. It's not like this occurs once a month! Obviously issues such as childcare may come into play but as one of the posters described before, people should not be awkward just because they 'don't want to lose their days off'.

    I have travelled for 3 hours today to get into work and it will take me the same amount of time to get home. Will I be claiming that time back? No, because I recognise that it is necessary once in a while to do such things, however annoying or inconvenient it may be.

    Lets work together as a team and provide the best nursing care we can, however annoying it might seem at the time. You'd certainly appreciate being in a properly staffed ward, snow or no snow, if you were ill!!

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  • How do you judge what is unsuitable weather to drive in? Everyone has a different perception. Unfortunately some people view that 1-2 inches of snow as an excuse for a day off. This puts an intollerable burden on those nurses who struggle through the weather because of their dedication.
    I was asked to do an extra shift earlier this week as the community hospital I work at was so short staffed. I struggled through very difficult conditions, as did another nurse, but managed to get in. Imagine my disgust when a colleague who lived much nearer and on better roads than we did just phoned in to say she wasn't coming in. This left us with only 2 staff nurses and 1 auxillary nurse to look after the hospital. On top of that another colleague, who lives 1/4 mile from myself, phoned in to say she wouldn't be coming in for her backshift, her excuse being that she had a cold!!! I had to work a double shift with not enough staff to ensure the safety of my patients and drive home afterwards absolutely exhausted.
    Don't say all nurses are dedicated because I think my colleagues show this not to be true, especially when my colleague with "a cold" was out sledging in the park across from my home when she should have been working the shift I had to cover.
    I think comments already posted show that there are certainly some very dedicated nurses but also many less dedicated.

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  • Each person has to make their own risk assessment when deciding wether they can get in to work or not.luckily I have been off duty for the last two days , but I have remained indoors and not ventured out .I am not being a wimp , I have osteoporosis , and therefore i dont bounce , I break bones if i fall.The main roads may well be free of ice and snow , but to be honest I am not concerned about bumping my car into the kerb etc , I am concerned about getting from my front door to the car without falling and possibly injuring myself.I am only in my early 50's , so many people dont know or suspect that i have osteoporosis, so when colleagues say they cant make it in to work , as frustrating as it is , they may be trying to protect their own well being .

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  • I think you're right Sally, not all nurses are dedicated to the same degree, not every one goes into nursing for the same reasons or is driven by the same underlying urges. I've come to appreciate it when people do stay off with 'colds' and not spread them round to everyone else, however I can well understand your frustration and anger at seeing said person out playing in the snow! I firmly believe though that somewhere in the continual political war zone we all have to face in work, looking after yourself is ok as well. Sacrificing yourself on the altar of anyone elses need or want is too high a price to pay, even if someone is giving out medals.

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