Adverse Weather in Veterinary Academia

This may seem like an odd topic, but I realized the other day there is an unwritten rule we tend to abide by in veterinary academia (and probably most clinics) when faced with university closures during adverse weather.  This isn’t English or history- we have patients and clients we have to take care of, regardless of what the weather is doing.  So just because the university closes doesn’t mean you get the day/hours off.

I remember when I was working at a university in the south and there was a fairly serious snow storm.  I happened to be downtown and saw people skidding off the road, so decided not to get in my car.  Instead, I walked to the teaching hospital and slept in my office.  I went down to the ICU and helped out, because no one was going home OR coming in to the hospital in that weather.  So it was all hands on deck for anyone who could get there.

Recently, my current university closed due to tornadoes and was closed until 9am.  One of my residents told me that people were asking them what they should tell clients etc.  My advice at the time (which I still stand by) was, “If they look out the window and there’s a tornado, tell them not to come in.  If it looks all clear and the weather has passed, come on in.  We have to take care of these cases one way or the other!  Tell them to use common sense.”

Obviously, check with your own university’s regulations and don’t accept my guidance as gospel.  The typical unwritten rule for vetmed is that, if it is safe to come in and you are scheduled to come in, do so.  If it is not safe, do not do so.  Follow this regardless of official university closings.  If it’s a REAL weather mess (e.g. the hospital has become isolated and no one can get in or out), if it is safe for you to come in (i.e. you could walk there and avoid dangerous snowed-in roads), reach out to your supervisor to see if the hospital needs help even if you’re not scheduled to be there. 

When in doubt, communicate with your supervisor or supervising faculty to determine what to do.  Preclinical students follow the university-wide closures.  But those of us on clinics have Things To Do which don’t always care about the weather (i.e. living patients).  Just because the university is closed doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to do.

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