*This post may contain affiliate links.
As a resource nurse who has worked in many specialties and units throughout the hospital setting, I have discovered that I am an ER nurse at heart.
Working in the ER is an adrenaline packed experience that requires a team of medical professionals to come together for amazing results. Through traumas, codes and septic patients we form strong bonds – after all it takes more than just one nurse to save a life!
Here are the reasons why I love being an ER nurse:
Camaraderie in the Emergency Department
What makes the ER truly exceptional are those moments when everyone comes together in a show of camaraderie – from physicians and nurses to pharmacists and techs – joining forces under pressing circumstances that demand quick thinking and action. This teamwork is the backbone that brings life-saving medical treatment, often just in time!
I have found that when I worked on med-surg floor units, nurses are typically assigned to the same patients for an entire day without much, if any, overlap with other nurses. I have also felt lonely on med surg units because I miss the camaraderie of working with other nurses.
The ER Gives Many Nurses Excellent IV Start Skills
Before becoming an ER nurse, my IV start skills were mediocre. The skill of starting IV’s quickly and correctly is so important in the ER – it often determines how fast a patient can receive life-saving medication or treatments. Over the years, I have had to start so many IV’s that my skills have greatly improved.
With the vast number of medical emergencies coming into the ER each day, it’s no wonder why nurses who work there are some of the best at starting intravenous lines. Having so many frequent opportunities to get IV access has meant a sharp increase in skill for me and other emergency room nurses – even when dealing with hard-to-stick veins.
In emergencies, ER nurses need to be able to gain access fast for testing, various medications, pain and nausea relief, IV hydration, and antibiotic therapy, among other things. Many nurses I work with have been in the ER for a decade or longer, and their IV skills are unbelievable.
In addition, several experienced ER nurses have been trained to use ultrasound techniques for those particularly challenging cases. So if you want valuable IV start skills quickly, then work where opportunity knocks most often – the ER! It’s the perfect place to hone your IV start skills and ensure every patient gets the care they need.
Diverse Patient Populations in the ER
From the tiniest newborns to centenarians, life in an ER is definitely never dull. Caring for a wide-ranging patient population provides unique opportunities and challenges with every new case. As an emergency room nurse, you’ll have plenty of chances to learn about all sorts of illnesses, injuries, and trauma – from organ transplants to autoimmune diseases – making your workdays excitingly unpredictable yet incredibly rewarding.
There is rarely a dull moment, and always something new to learn in the the ER enviornment.
Organized Chaos in the ER
It is never boring or tedious in the ER, or at least not for long! The emergency room is a fine-tuned machine, with each nurse component working semi-gracefully around one another. It might look like craziness from the outside, but the madness always has a method. I often struggle with the tediousness of tasks when working on a med surg unit. It is usually jam-packed but very task-based. The to-do lists can get a little ridiculous.
Intellectual Stimulation as a Healthcare Provider in the ER
I am a closet science geek. And I love the cerebral stimulation I get as an emergency room nurse. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries, and unusual diagnoses than 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 to help people as I do. They motivate me to keep learning.
The ER Helps Me Maintain My Sense Of Humor.
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 are dying but end up with a diagnosis of constipation.
Once, I had a college student come in because he had a 99 degree temperature. I had to explain to him that he didn’t have a fever and he was sent home.
The emergency room is also 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 we know their blood test results, or the medical team decides on a plan for them. They get upset and tired of waiting.
Sadly, sometimes they take out their frustrations on the people working the hardest to get them the medical treatment they need: the nurses. I have had so many “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried” experiences in the emergency room to last me a lifetime.
But that’s one of the reasons I love being an ER nurse 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.
Emergency Room Nurse Frequently Asked Questions
Why do nurses like being an ER nurse?
There can be several reasons why someone enjoys being an ER nurse. Some common reasons include the fast-paced nature of the emergency department, the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives during critical moments, the variety of cases encountered, the ability to work in a dynamic team environment, and the satisfaction of providing immediate care to patients in need.
Why is being an ER nurse rewarding?
Being an ER nurse can be rewarding for several reasons. ER nurses often have the chance to save lives, alleviate suffering, and provide critical care to patients during their most vulnerable moments. The ability to make a positive impact on patients’ lives and the gratitude expressed by patients and their families can be deeply rewarding.
Is being an ER nurse worth it?
The worthiness of being an ER nurse is subjective and depends on individual preferences and values. While the profession can be challenging due to the high-stress environment, long hours, and exposure to traumatic situations, many ER nurses find fulfillment in their work, the camaraderie with colleagues, the opportunities for professional growth, and the ability to help others during times of crisis.
What is the personality of an ER nurse?
The personality traits commonly associated with successful ER nurses include adaptability, resilience, quick thinking, effective communication skills, compassion, emotional stability, the ability to work well under pressure, and a strong desire to help others. However, it’s important to remember that individuals can possess a wide range of personalities and still excel as an ER nurse.
What are the struggles of an ER nurse?
Some common struggles faced by ER nurses include dealing with high levels of stress, long and unpredictable shifts, emotional and physical exhaustion, witnessing traumatic events, balancing work-life commitments, managing a heavy workload, and making quick decisions under pressure. Additionally, ER nurses may encounter challenging patient interactions, difficult family dynamics, and ethical dilemmas.
What is the hardest thing a nurse has to do?
The “hardest” aspect of nursing can vary depending on personal experiences and perspectives. Some nurses may find it difficult to witness the suffering or loss of patients, while others may struggle with the emotional toll of the job. Additionally, ethical dilemmas, managing complex medical cases, and dealing with difficult patients or family members can also be challenging.
How long does it take to feel comfortable as an ER nurse?
The time it takes to feel comfortable as an ER nurse can vary from person to person. It generally depends on an individual’s prior experience, the level of support and training provided, and the ability to adapt to the fast-paced and unpredictable environment. It may take several months to a couple of years for a nurse to gain confidence and feel fully comfortable in their role.
Why do ER nurses take so long?
The duration of an ER nurse’s work can be influenced by various factors. Emergency departments typically prioritize patients based on the severity of their conditions. This means that patients with life-threatening emergencies are seen first, while those with less severe conditions may have to wait longer. Additionally, the complex nature of emergency cases, unexpected surges in patient volume, limited resources, and administrative tasks can contribute to longer wait times.
What is the most stressful nursing department?
The perceived level of stress in nursing departments can vary among individuals. However, emergency departments (EDs) are often considered one of the most stressful areas in nursing due to the fast-paced environment, high patient acuity, constant decision-making, the need for quick interventions, exposure to trauma, and the pressure to provide immediate care in life-threatening situations.
Thanks for reading!
Additional Recommended Reading:
*This post is sponsored by the American Cleaning Institute to help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling laundry packets. You can find our disclosure page here.
Children are so naturally curious
In the early baby days, I knew if I walked away for a few minutes that my babies would be in the exact spot I left them. Therefore, the urgency to child-proof every nook and cranny in our home wasn’t there…yet. After all, they were completely immobile for almost the first year of life!
But with each new, curious day comes another baby milestone (or so it seemed).
First, it’s the rollover (so exciting!). Then baby develops an army crawl. And, before you know it, they pull themselves up to a stand.
Then, boom, you have your very own baby-walking machine! A little unstable, but a baby on the move nonetheless. All the while putting anything and everything they come in contact with into their mouths.
As exciting and adorable as it is to watch, it is also the time those curious minds can do their wobbly, little Frankenstein walk and come into contact with substances that they should not touch – such as household cleaning supplies…
So, in case you didn’t already know: now is the time to make sure your house is 100% baby-proofed! No excuses!
Safety first, always
As an emergency room nurse, I have witnessed first-hand plenty of accidents involving children that could have been prevented- including the ingestion of household items. It only takes a second for those tiny, delicate hands to get into trouble when a home isn’t properly child-proofed.
But I get it, I’m a mom too – parenthood can be overwhelmingly busy and I also sometimes feel I’m being run over by a tiny human army I created myself (and I usually am!).
It is so easy to forget to child-proof your home when you have 1,000 things on your to-do list. But if you take a few simple steps and have systems in place that will prevent accidents from happening, then it will make your life so much easier in the long run. Especially if something bad happens that could have easily been prevented.
Babies and children of all ages need safe spaces to move around and learn in safe environments. Many accidents that bring our little ones to the emergency room can be prevented and avoided altogether.
So in honor of Emergency Nurses Week in October and my desire to encourage other parents to take an active stance in child-proofing their homes, my #1 safety message this year is to encourage parents to put their Packets UP!
Don’t forget to child proof the laundry room
The laundry room is one of those places in the home that is the last to be childproofed, if it even gets child-proofed at all.
That’s why I’ve partnered up with the American Cleaning Institute to help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling liquid laundry packets. Accidents involving liquid laundry packets are 100% preventable!
I’m talking about taking simple steps to keep the laundry room safe at all times. By putting a few simple systems in place, you won’t have to worry about accidental poisoning and you will be proactively preventing avoidable child injuries.
Think of it like this: Playtime + child-proofed home = SAFE SPACE for baby and child growth and learning opportunities!
(The ER nurse in me geeks out about safety-proofing. You should see our home – even my husband has a hard time getting into closets and drawers. But at least I know our kids are safe!).
Keep the laundry room safe by keeping your packets up!
Simple child safety tips in the laundry room
Step #1: Keep liquid laundry packets out of reach
Keep all laundry products in a designated out of reach and in an area that children can’t get into.
If you don’t have a cabinet with doors to hide your cleaning products available, place liquid laundry packets (in the original packaging) into a larger bin with other laundry and household products and put it up high where children won’t be able to see it.
Step #2: Don’t keep laundry packets on display
While clear or glass jars can be an Instagram-worthy way to display household items, storing liquid laundry packets visibly in these jars could attract unwanted attention from young children. Always keep liquid laundry packets tightly secured in their original packaging, stored up and out of reach.
Step #3: Keep laundry packets separate from groceries
When purchasing laundry packets and other household cleaners from the store, have them bagged separately and put them away in their designated safe storage spot – out of sight and out of reach – as soon as you get home and unpack your groceries.
Step #4: Make safety checks a priority
Conduct routine safety checks in the home to prevent accidents.
Tip: Consider making a sign in the laundry room to remind yourself to check your laundry packets and make sure they are stored properly and out of children’s reach. That way use can ensure safety each time you do the laundry. If you have a housekeeper or someone else who does the laundry, have a conversation with them about how important it is that they also follow your laundry room safety rules. All adults in the house need to be on the same page.
If a liquid laundry packet is ingested:
Call the Poison Help Line immediately at 1-800-222-1212.
I hope this messaging can help parents understand how important it is to practice laundry safety, including properly storing and handling laundry packets. Safety is the number one message here, and I hope this helps to encourage and remind all parents to find simple ways to keep all laundry products up and away from little ones in the home.
Let’s have ZERO accidental laundry product accidents this and every year. Safety first!!
Remember these key laundry packet safety points:
- It is so important to store liquid laundry packets up high and out of sight and reach.
- Don’t forget to completely close and seal liquid laundry packet containers after use.
- Finally, always store liquid laundry packets in their original containers.
For more information about the Packets Up campaign:
Visit packetsup.com for more information and tools to help you prevent exposures from liquid laundry packets. You can also join the conversation: follow #PacketsUp for the latest laundry room safety tips and information.
Order a free cling and put it on your cabinet as a safe storage reminder.
If you have taken a peek over at my About Me page you may have read that nursing was NOT my first career. If fact, I did’t even discover that I had a calling for nursing until after I had been working in the medical sales field for about 9 years.
Ill press rewind for just a minute… Once upon a time, I worked in the competitive field of surgical equipment sales for a fortune 100 company and a few medical device startups.
I knew I didn’t love the career, but I made a pretty good living. It also allowed me to travel for work and I was able to afford to take a lot of incredible overseas trips. After a few years in the sales grind, I knew I wanted to do other things. The problem was that my resume said I was a medical device salesperson. So what was I supposed to do?
That voice in the back of my head continued gnawing at me, little by little. Every day a small piece of my soul was being eaten up by working in a career that I had no real passion for.
Until finally one day, after a near mental break down I made the difficult decision to leave the field. I went on a quest in pursuit of greater clinical medical knowledge and a desire to help humankind. After years of scratching my head I had finally discovered my new path.
I was going to become a Nurse!
It has been 9 years since my near mental breakdown that forced me to make an incredible life change. Nursing school was one of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I am so thankful everyday that I did it. Ultimately, it was the best decision for myself and and for my family.
Here I am showing off my badge bloom…
My whole point in writing this post was to talk about a really cool experience that I had recently…
A journalist at the Huntington Post recently contacted me through my blog. She asked if my husband and I would be interested in being interviewed for a piece that she was doing about what it was like being married to an ER nurse. Of course I said yes!
(I was a journalism major in college and still have an itch to write, which is one of the reasons I blog).
Nursing is challenging.
I want to be an advocate for nurses because I think we tolerate things that would never be tolerated in any other field (but we do it anyway because we’re awesome). I also really, really want to find a way to help nurses take better care of themselves. Plus, I am extremely passionate about being a nurse and have a passion for helping others. So, I was excited to share some of my thoughts (and I was also intrigued to see what my husband had to say about being married to an ER nurse).
If you are still reading this and want to take a look at our Huffington Post article you can read it here.
Thank you for reading my blog and free free to leave a comment. I appreciate that your took the time to read this!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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