Being on the Front Line as a Nurse in the Emergency Room

by Howard Gerber on July 7, 2016

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emergency room nursesEmergency department nurses see it all. From patients with gunshot wounds to heart attacks, ER nurses deal with life and death situations on a daily basis. If you thrive in a fast-paced environment and love the adrenaline rush of dealing with emergency situations, working in the emergency room may be energizing. So what is a typical day like for an emergency room nurse? That’s a bit difficult to say since there is a lot of variety and things can change in an instant. You may see similar scenarios, but each person is different.

A Day in the Life of an ED Nurse

In general, nurses in the ED treat a variety of people of all ages with conditions, ranging from the non-critical to life-threatening situations. Nurses in the emergency room may treat people with illnesses like the flu, injuries like broken bones, and much more serious conditions including strokes, respiratory emergencies, and severe trauma.

Some nurses work in triage, which means they evaluate the patient when they arrive to determine how urgently they need to be treated. Other nurses in the ER usually take care of a few patients at a time. The responsibilities of an emergency room nurse may include stabilizing trauma patients, including performing advanced life support procedures. Nurses also have many other responsibilities like starting intravenous lines, administering medication, and taking vital signs.

Skills Needed

When you consider which nursing specialty feels right for you, it’s helpful to find something that matches your interests, personality, and strengths. While some people find working in the emergency room exciting and challenging, others find it daunting and overwhelming.

So how do you know if it is the right niche for you? It helps to do an honest assessment of your traits and skills.  Consider some of the following skills that emergency room nurses need.

  • Multitasking ability: Nurses in the ED have to juggle multiple patients at the same time. Excellent assessment skills, as well as the ability to prioritize is a must.
  • Calm demeanor: Imagine a situation where someone’s life is on the line. Emergency room nurses may face such situations on a regular basis. If you want to work in the emergency room, you should be someone who handles stress well and remains calm in an emergency.
  • Fast thinker: There are many instances in the emergency room where decisions need to be made quickly. Delaying an intervention even for a minute or two can make a difference in a patient’s chance of survival.
  • Flexibility: As an emergency room nurse, you might have to switch gears quickly. One minute, you may be cleaning a cut, and the next minute you might be doing CPR on a patient in cardiac arrest.
  • Good coping skills: Even if you love your job, ER nursing can be stressful. Nurses see upsetting situations, and unfortunately, not all patients have good outcomes. If you want to work in the emergency room, you need to develop healthy ways of handling stress. 
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