Little did Sue Childress RN, MN, OCN, know that her skiing to work during a snow storm would get national — maybe international — attention.
The director of Nursing Services at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, made news when she walked (or skied) to make her work shift because nurses don’t get snow days.
“We’re here 24-7, no matter what’s going on, whether it’s a disaster or just a snowstorm,” Childress said.
The morning of Feb. 6, Childress woke up to what she said was one of Salt Lake City’s worst snowstorms in many years.
“The school district closed the Salt Lake school system for the day for the first time in 20 years,” she said.
Using skies to make her work shift
Childress’s car and driveway were covered, as were the roads to work.
“I love to cross country ski, and I also feel pretty strongly that if I expect my nurses to get to work because we have patients there, I need to do the same thing,” Childress said. “So, I just thought ‘I’ll ski.’”
And off she was for the two-mile, hour-long journey to the hospital in the storm.
It was early and still dark, but Childress managed to chat with people along the way who were trying to shovel their driveways. One took Childress’s picture.
An online and TV sensation
Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Anna C. Beck, MD, noticed Childress’s skis and Tweeted about the nurse’s dedication.
“About 20 minutes later, she comes running into my office and says ‘Sue, its going viral!’ I said what?” Childress said. “Then we started getting requests from channels 2 and 4. KSL radio called asking to interview me. Channel 13.”
Being an internet sensation was the last thing on Childress’s mind. She got to work, met with her nursing supervisor and walked around all the inpatient units to determine what kind of toll the storm might have taken on staffing.
Some nurses hadn’t made it in yet. But the night shift nurses agreed to stay and cover their work shift until their colleagues figured out how to navigate the storm.
“Everybody was kind of in a good mood,” Childress said. “It was a real team effort.”
Childress said there were many stories of nurse dedication to cover their work shift that day.
“One of our nurse practitioners snowshoed down to where she could get an Uber and took Uber to work,” she said.
There’s more to this story
Childress, 62 years old and a nurse for 40 years, says she has always wanted to be a nurse. Proof is a picture with her siblings when she was seven and wearing a nurses’ uniform.
Dedication is part of the job, according to Childress.
“That was the message I wanted to get out,” she said. “I think it resonated with a lot of people. I had colleagues from all over the country emailing me and saying they had sent the link to the channel 13 interview out to their senior leadership just recognizing what nurses do to take care of their patients.”
Still, it’s important to say thank you, Childress said.
“Sometimes we take it for granted that night shift stays and day shift does everything it can to get in,” she said. “I think [the message is] recognizing that it is a little bit of a sacrifice and saying thank you for being here when it’s not easy.”
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