I Love Being An Emergency Room Nurse:  Here’s Why

I Love Being An Emergency Room Nurse: Here’s Why

Have I mentioned how much more I love my job now since I started working as an emergency room nurse?

A year ago, I was a per diem resource nurse who worked on multiple different med/surg and telemetry floors all over our hospital. Being a resource nurse works well for me due to the flexibility it gives me as a working Mom.

But unfortunately, I was becoming incredibly burnt out. Bitter even. I was losing my passion, and I started to wonder if I was due for a career change-up.

I even went so far as to interview for a few medical device companies as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (I was a medical device salesperson before my career change into nursing). I am so glad I decided not to accept any of those positions!

Instead, I adopted a new specialty as an RN in the emergency room and reignited my passion for nursing and healthcare. When the opportunity came up for me to interview for cross-training into my own hospital’s level 1 trauma center, I jumped on it. I started my ER journey on Easter Sunday, 2017.

I have always thought of the ER as a scary portal into the hospital. We are often overbooked with patients, and the load can be relentless. There are sometimes grim patient situations, and sometimes patients die, despite every life-saving effort.

You will be hard-pressed to find medical professionals who deal with more stress and pressure then emergency room nurses. But I am grateful to expand on my med/surg and telemetry knowledge base and learn a new specialty.

Here are my top 6 reasons that I love being an emergency room nurse:

My IV start skills are so much better.

A good vien is what dreams are made of

Since becoming a nurse in the emergency room, my IV start skills have gotten so much better.

In an emergency, we need to be able to start IV’s fast for testing, various medications, pain and nausea relief, IV hydration, and antibiotic therapy, among other things.

Fortunately, in the ER, I get the opportunity to start anywhere from 5 or more IVs in a single shift. So I have the chance to perfect my skills frequently on many patients who are difficult IV sticks.

Many of the nurses I work with have been in the ER for a decade, or longer and their IV skills are unbelievable. Several nurses are even trained to do ultrasound-guided IV starts on patients with hard-to-stick veins.

There is an enormous variety in our patient population.

Every day is an adventure. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but never boring. I have had patients ranging in age from 2 days to 108 years. Patients have arrived with complaints from hiccups, to every type of accident you can imagine and everything in between.

As one would expect, many of our patients are really sick or critically injured. Our patient loads include various types of trauma patients, septic patients, elderly patients, organ transplanted patients, patients with cancer or autoimmune diseases, psych patients, and small children and babies, and so much more. There is rarely a dull moment and always something new to learn.

The teamwork in the emergency room is impressive.

The coordination when a trauma patient arrives is impressive. Patients come into the ER in urgent situations where the cause of injury or disease isn’t yet known. Doctors, nurses, techs, pharmacists, and other medical professionals cohesively work together to give fast life-saving medical treatment.

Also, emergency room nurses often have their own sections, but there are also many “resource” nurses on the floor to assist with additional patient care. When a patient arrives with a more serious condition, there are always nurses who come in to help.

For example, we call a “code” for septic, stroke, and head trauma patients. It is an overhead call to other nurses in the ER that a particular room needs additional help. Within seconds there are a handful or more nurses in the room helping with triage, initial assessments, IV sticks, blood draws, and many other nurse protocols and procedures.

The emergency room moves fast.

Many call it “organized chaos.” The emergency room is a fine-tuned machine with each nurse component working semi-gracefully around one another. From the outside, it might look like craziness, but the madness always has a method.

I am constantly learning.

I am a closet science geek. And I love the cerebral stimulation that I get as an emergency room nurse. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries, and unusual diagnoses then I ever could have imagined even existed.

It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things every day at work. To top it off, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.

I just have to laugh at some of the stuff I see.

Nursing is a work of heart

Nursing is a work of heart.

Please forgive me for saying this. This may seem inappropriate, but it is how I maintain my resiliency.

The emergency room is a very emotional place. Patients never want to be there and usually don’t understand, for example, why they have to wait in the hallway an hour or even much longer until their test results are completed, or the medical team decides on a plan for them. They get upset and tired of waiting.

Sadly, sometimes they take out there frustrations on the people working the hardest to get them the medical treatment they need: the nurses.

Sometimes things just get so odd that I can’t help but laugh. There are days when I see people come into the ER saying that they feel like dying, but end up having a diagnosis of constipation. Once I had a college student come in for a temperature of 99 degrees. I’m like, seriously? How do you even get through the day?

I have had so many “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried” experiences in the emergency room to last me a long time. But that’s one of the reasons I like being in the ER versus other parts of the hospital. It can get weird, but I’m always learning. And I’m so grateful for the opportunity to keep learning.

Additional recommended reading:  5 Best Trauma Shears For Nurses

Look For The Helpers:  Acts Of Compassion After The Las Vegas Massacre

Look For The Helpers: Acts Of Compassion After The Las Vegas Massacre

On October 1st, a single shooter sprayed bullets into the crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas killing 59 people and injuring over 500.  This was the largest U.S mass shooting in modern history.

My heart hurts.  I can’t imagine how a single shooter can be capable of murdering and injuring so many people.

One of my goals over the next few months is to find a way to get more involved in assisting in any way with implementing gun control laws.  I can’t have my children growing up in a world where mass casualties by automatic weaponry is normal and occurring repeatedly.

However, at the present moment I want to focus on the individual acts of heroism and acts of compassion that are coming about as a result of the Las Vegas massacre.

There are always helpers.

Here are just a few acts of compassion that occurred this week:

#1.  Thousands of people stood in line for hours to give blood.

#2.  Ride shares and taxi companies offered free transportation to blood donation centers and hospitals.

#3.  Leaders from many religions held vigils and encouraged giving.

#4.  Hotels donated free rooms to people traveling to Las Vegas to help victims.

#5.  I personally know people living in Las Vegas who have graciously offered their homes to the family members of victims who are coming from out-of-town.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “look for the helpers.  You will always find people helping.”   -Mr. Rogers

How you can help now:

1. Donate to the Las Vegas Victim’s Fund. As of today the campaign has raised almost 10 million dollars since the shooting. Their goal is 15 million.

2. Visit Show Me Your Stethoscope’s campaign to support the nurses and first responders caring for the victims of the shooting. You can send money to local hospital staff in Las Vegas, who are working so hard to help save lives and care for the over 500 people who were injured during the attack. Many of the injured are still in critical condition.

As an ER nurse who works at a Level 1 Trauma Center, I am not looking forward to a time when we have a catastrophic event like the Las Vegas massacre. Yet, I am so grateful to hear about the acts of compassion of the staff at the hospitals who are working tirelessly around the clock to save lives and heal the injured. At times like this, I am so proud to be a nurse.

Were you affected by the Las Vegas shooting? Please share your thoughts!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Happy Easter From The Emergency Room:  Day One Of ER Nurse Training

Happy Easter From The Emergency Room: Day One Of ER Nurse Training

While most people were with their families this Easter Sunday, I was working day one of Emergency Room RN training.

In light this, my family had our Easter celebration and egg hunt with our daughter the day prior. Celebrating holidays the day before or the day after has been one thing I have had to get accustomed to as an RN.

It was surprisingly not as busy as most days in the emergency room, or so I’m told. My preceptor, who has 10 years working in the ER, mentioned that fewer ER admissions occur on holidays then on other days of the year. Apparently, many people like to wait until the day after a major holiday to have a medical emergency and show up in the ER.

There are a wide variety of patients in the emergency room.

The day started off with a bang. I had my very first trauma patient. The unfortunate victim of a car crash that occurred somewhere along the 405. I was hoping the ER would get me out of my comfort zone, and my first experience absolutely did not disappoint.

I also got my first pediatric patient: a baby who luckily didn’t have anything seriously wrong. Having my own 20 month old daughter, I seriously don’t know how well I’m going to handle pediatric patients that are not so lucky.

My patients ranged in age from 8 weeks to 96 years old. Talk about a diverse patient population!

My IV start skills are constantly being challenged.

I started 3 IV’s during the shift, including a few elderly patients, which I often have a difficult time with. Not too shabby, if I don’t say so myself. I have always been pretty good at IV starts, but I hope to really fine tune my skills within the next few months.

One thing I was super impressed with was that my preceptor does ultra sound guided IV’s on a daily basis. So cool. I didn’t even know that nurses were allowed to do that. There are apparently several nurses who do it in our emergency room and it requires additional classes and a special certification. I don’t know of any other floors in the hospital where that happens.

HIPPA and patient privacy

I have been having an issue with how much I ethically can and should disclose on this blog. As much as I want to break down every little detail of what I see, we have this super important legal policy called the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Otherwise known as HIPAA, it is basically a fancy way of saying that any healthcare professional will get fired if they disclose anything about a patient’s identity or medical information. Essentially it legally protects patient confidentially, which is a good thing.

On the off chance that anyone actually does read what I am writing I want to be very careful of this. Therefore, I am going to focus my writing on the skills and tasks that I perform and not on any patient information. It seriously limits what I can talk about, so I am mentioning that upfront.

Also, my husband is also a legal investigator at the hospital and he frequently reminds me about HIPAA. He even teaches courses about it to staff. It is a complete coincidence that we happen to both work for the same medical center (for the record though, I was there first).

Tomorrow I will get up at 5:15am and head out for day 2 of ER training and a whole new round of learning experiences. At some point I need to get a start on the 50 hours on online ER training courses I need to complete. My brain is tired just thinking about it.

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

How Pediatric Nurse Training Reminded Me To Have More Gratitude

How Pediatric Nurse Training Reminded Me To Have More Gratitude

When you have your health, you have everything.

My experiences as a nurse have taught me that having good health makes you the richest person in the world. On another hand, being ill makes life seem poor even if you are monetarily wealthy. It’s too bad you can’t buy your way out of an illness.

I deplore being sick. For me, illness goes something like this:

One day I’m feeling great! Then the next I wake up feeling achy and lethargic. A scratchy, sore throats kicks in and swallowing makes my throat feel like sandpaper. Everything hurts. I feel like dying. Life sucks. The end.

Just kidding. I’m not that dramatic. I’m just trying to make a point, but for the record I personally do not handle being sick well. Luckily, I rarely get sick (knock on wood!).

Recently, I received news that I was selected to ‘master in’ as a Resource Nurse in the Emergency Room. It is a 3 month in-unit training program that includes an additional 50 hours of classroom training and testing. After completion of the program I will officially be an ER nurse. Yay!

I am ecstatic about the opportunity for emergency and critical care training as it will build my skill set and hopefully make me a better nurse. Additionally, I will have to be trained in pediatrics which is a whole new specialty for me. I am excited about that too, but the Mom in me is a little nervous about seeing kids in pain or any kind of suffering.

As part of my preparation for training this week I completed a Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification course and shadowed a Pediatric nurse for a 12-hour shift. While I am still very far from being competent in Pediatric nursing, it was an informative opportunity to be exposed to the kinds of things Pediatric nurses do on a day to day basis.

There is one overwhelming thought that has stayed with me since my experience working on a Pediatric Unit:

I am so grateful that my child is healthy.

We are lucky to live in a world where there are so many medical professionals who dedicate their lives towards helping sick children (and all people of course, but for the purpose of this post I am talking about Pediatrics). Working with very ill or injured children is challenging and emotionally draining. Yet the nurses I shadowed on the Pediatric unit are happy to be there. Most importantly, they are competent and knowledgeable.

I am grateful.

Pediatric nurse training reinforced my gratitude for having a healthy child.

Up until now my nursing career has involved working with adult patients 18 and older. The shifts can be exhausting to say the least. At the end of my 12 hours I am often too tired and emotionally drained to even think about talking about many of the sad and difficult situations that unfortunately occur. Its often easier just to block it out of my head and move on.

Soon the ER will be my new place of work and my new job description will include children and even babies. There will be situations that are critical and possibly catastrophic. As a Mom (and obsessive lover of small humans) I will have a lot of adjusting to do in this new area.

Practicing gratitude is so important (especially for the gift of healthy children!)

When life gets busy it is easy to take a child’s health for granted. You assume they will be healthy because they have always been healthy.

Mama and baby.

Gratitude for the opportunity to be a Mama.

Between all the cooking, cleaning, working, errands, play dates, and (fill in the space here) time slips away and it is so easy to forget to focus on the magnificent joy of having a child who is free from illness or injury. The only time people often think about health is when it is no longer there.

Gratitude is just a way parents can pay attention to the gift of good health today. No one can predict what will happen tomorrow so you might as well live in the moment!

Imagine that your child was sick and had to be in the hospital for an extended period of time. Or worse, if they were in an accident or received a devastating life threatening prognosis.

I have never experienced any of these scenarios myself. But I imagine they would probably be the hardest thing I would ever have to deal with as a parent. In my years as a nurse, I have seen a lot of families at the hospital in similar situations. I’m not sure where they find their strength and I’m sure in those moments they take nothing for granted.

Gratitude keeps us grounded and in the present moment.

Gratitude allows for positive energy to permeate in the NOW and not stuck in an annoying situation that has passed.

It’s important to understand the difference between normal difficult life situations and the kind of catastrophic situations that occur when your child is sick or injured. 99% of the negativity in our daily lives as parents isn’t really as bad as we make in in our minds if you really think how many good things are happening.

Hanging out with other Moms is like therapy for me. Venting to an extend is important. We get to talk about frustrations and experiences while surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who have the same interests: our children.

Newborn baby feet

I have gratitude for a healthy baby.

But too often gratitude is not present in many of these conversations and they can easily turn into a pessimistic venting session of who has it worse. I have heard many conversations with parents comparing their gloomy situations with other parents. Negativity is contagious. Next thing you know you are hyper-focused on the negative and completely overlooking the awesomeness of being a parent in the first place!
Gratitude puts child-rearing challenges and perceived annoyances into perspective.

Not everyone gets to have a healthy child, or even a child at all for that matter. Being a parent is a privilege.

There are parents who practically live at the hospital for weeks, months even years at a time because their child is sick. A ‘normal’ crazy busy day with their child at home would be the best gift in the world.

So when a child is being difficult it is important to remember that we are lucky enough to have healthy children to discipline in the first place. Not everyone gets that opportunity.

Here are a few ways to practice gratitude for continued good health!

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Intentionally choose gratitude. Writing down what you are grateful for consciously reminds you that even though parenthood is frustrating at times, the good stuff far outweighs the bad. It keeps you aligned with the positive aspects of parenthood that we should keep our energy focused on (like watching my kid have fun watching and playing with other kids).

2. Watch the language (internally and externally)

What you say and think becomes reality. In other words, if you think life sucks, then it does. That becomes your truth. Gratitude can also become your truth if you make it a habit.

Kids are sensitive and pick up on attitudes and the words coming out of their parents mouths. Fortunately, gratitude is also contagious!

3. Pray

Or meditate or have a positive mantra, whatever works for you. The point is to essentially say “thank you” and bring awareness to the positive aspects of parenthood. Meditation is my thing and it works for me every time. Especially as my daughter, Zoe becomes more independent and adorably (and sometimes frustratingly) sassy.

4. Take care of yourself!

Its hard to practice gratitude when you are too exhausted all the time. You know how when you are on an airplane and they say in an emergency that you need to put the mask on yourself first, then assist your children? Its pretty much the same thing here.

When your basic needs are being met it is so much easier to be grateful for the other miracles in your life.  So be nice to yourself.

Parenthood is a glorious, overwhelming and at times maddening thing and I am glad I’m in the thick of it. Zoe brings 1000 new levels of joy that I never knew existed prior to parenthood. I am so lucky that I can bask in gratitude that right now my child is healthy and happy and her parents are too.

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

How I Became A Emergency Room Nurse

How I Became A Emergency Room Nurse

Two weeks ago I was writing about how I wanted focus on trying to relax a little more and work a little less.

But life is so unpredictable. Just when you think things are going to be a certain way, a new opportunity spontaneously presents itself.

For the past year my RN title has been Resource Nurse, Float Pool. Essentially this means that I am a resource nurse for short-staffed units and I can float to any Med/Surg or Telemetry unit in the hospital. Soon my skill set is going to get an upgrade.

Soon I will be training to be an Emergency Room Nurse.

Stethoscope in the shape of a heart

Emergency Room nursing is a whole new challenge for me.

I was recently selected to be in a new cross training program in our Emergency Department. Apparently they have some staffing issues and want to make sure they have trained Resource Nurses to help fill in the gaps.

In a few months I will be an Emergency Room Nurse at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital! Yay! Wait, wasn’t I just talking about not working so hard?  Yup. Isn’t this program going to be stressful, exhausting and require a lot more work? Yeah, pretty much.

But opportunity is knocking and I’m going to go ahead and open the door. This is the first time this kind of cross training opportunity has ever been available at my hospital and I would be remiss to pass it up. In return, I get to expand my nursing prowess and make myself more marketable in my field.

I’m a nerd. I admit it.

If I’m not constantly learning or doing something new I get board pretty easily.

That partially explains why I left a lucrative career to go back to college for a second bachelors degree in nursing at the age of 32. I talk a little more about that here.

Back in my nursing school days I wanted to go directly to working in the ER or ICU after graduation. I had the desire to challenge myself right off the bat by caring for the most critical and vulnerable patient populations. But first I needed a job.

Nurse Residency programs are the place to be for a new grad.

As graduation approached I was frequently reminded that most new grad RN’s had a slim chance of getting excepted into a nurse graduate residency program. In fact, I knew of many RN grads who had been out of school for over a year and were still waiting to get their first job. This was due to the fact that there was a large surplus of graduate BSN’s coupled with a very limited number of nurse graduate residency programs available. From what I hear from new grads today, the problem still exists.

"they may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

Patients never forget how their nurses made them feel.

To not have employment after 3 years in nursing school was definitely not OK for a gal graduating with 35k in student loan debt!

Since there are more Telemetry and Med/Surg Floors in most hospitals I thought I would have a better chance of just getting my foot in the door if I started there. So to maximize my chances for employment I asked to interview for ANY Telemetry unit position that was available in the entire hospital.

Fortunately my gamble paid off. Shortly after I applied to the nurse residency program at UCLA I started my nursing career on a Neuroscience and Stroke Telemetry Unit. I stayed on this unit for about 4 years and became certified in the specialty.

I still love Neuroscience and I’m so glad I started my nursing career there. Even though I have moved on to other things, I still feel like it is my home.

I’m back in school again. Sort of.

I’m back in student mode. I’m quickly finding out that becoming an Emergency Room Nurse requires an extraordinary amount of study and training. Just this week I completed Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification (PALS) and Adult Certified Life Support Certification (ACLS).

Last week I shadowed two RN’s in the Liver Transplant ICU and Pediatric Unit to briefly introduce me to the specialties. This is because in the ER I will be working with Pediatrics as well as doing Trauma and Critical Care. Both are new specialties for me.

Next week I start orientation and will meet the preceptors who will help train me for the next 3 months. Then I start the 50+ hours of additional classroom training. I guess I will be doing a lot of studying after I put my daughter down to bed in the evenings.

Training to be an Emergency Room Nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center will be very challenging to say the least. But I’m ready for it. It is amazing what opportunities arrive when you are least expecting them.

I’m sure I will have many tales to tell about the madness as an Emergency Room Nurse. Stay tuned!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love