*As a former resident of the Washington, D.C. metro area I’ve experienced my share of snow and ice. In fact after living there fourteen years it’s one of the reasons I decided to make my home someplace else.

I even recited a prayer of thanks that I was nowhere around to experience the recent blizzards that dumped more than three feet of snow and shut down air traffic from Philadelphia to Virginia. Three feet of snow is waist deep for me and I’m taller than most people.

Most businesses were closed and even the public transit system stopped running for a few days. But does that mean some essential employees who work in hospitals should be excused for not making it into work due to lack of transportation and no electricity? Should they be fired?

At least ten nurses and five support personnel at one Washington area hospital were facing termination after they called out of work. We’re not talking about your average slacker employees. These are medical professionals. Chances are if they said they couldn’t make it in they couldn’t make it in.

Even though most people might accept no trash pickup or food delivery during a severe snow storm I doubt they would be as forgiving if they arrived at the hospital only to find there were not enough nurses on duty to tend to their medical needs.

As a former TV reporter it was my responsibility not only to be at work during inclement weather, oftentimes I had to report from the eye of the storm so to speak. Can you image turning on your television to get the latest update only to see color bars instead because I couldn’t make it in that day?

The same time that Washington, D.C. was facing its weather woes a man in Pittsburgh died after making ten calls to 911 and waiting thirty hours for paramedics to arrive. Deep snow delayed ambulances from getting to the man’s home. And one report said a paramedic called his home from a quarter mile away and told him he had to walk to meet them.

The sick man didn’t drive and willing neighbors couldn’t dig out their cars from the snow in time to drive him to a hospital. Now emergency services must account for their negligence. When someone called them in his time of need they were not there. And snow or no snow that is inexcusable.

Emergency medical employees should be prepared for even the worst conditions. Where was the helicopter for impassible roads? Where was plan B or plan C?

As much as it might seem that hospital officials in Washington, D.C. overreacted by terminating staffers who were no shows during the snow storm, it’s good to know that someone understands the enormous responsibility that comes with someone in that position. If a snowstorm is forecast – as one of this magnitude always would be – nurses should be prepared to spend the night ahead of the storm to ensure they are at work when they are needed. If it’s more important for them to be at home when it snows they should consider a change of profession.

Too many people want the recognition and pay without the hard work and responsibility of the position. In times of a crisis I don’t want to ask ‘who’s in charge here? I want to know that if I dial 911 somebody is on the way to get me and there will be a nurse waititng to care for me when I get there.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metro area. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at www.youtube.com/steffanierivers.