(This post may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
As a resource nurse who has worked in many specialties and units all over the hospital setting, I have discovered that I am an ER nurse at heart. Here are the reasons why I love being an ER nurse:
I love the camaraderie in the ER.
In between the traumas, code brains, septic patients, strokes, fast track, and other walk-in emergency room patients, ER nurses frequently communicate with each other. It’s all about teamwork. In the ER, 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.
When it gets stressful in the ER, the nurses depend on each other to get the work done. Many patients come into the ER in urgent situations where the cause of injury or disease isn’t yet known. Nurses have to work together to triage and effectively treat patients, oftentimes, without all the facts. Doctors, nurses, techs, pharmacists, and other medical professionals cohesively work together to give fast life-saving medical treatment.
On med surg floor units, nurses are assigned to the same patients for an entire day without much, if any, overlap with other nurses. At times I have often felt lonely on med surg units because I miss the camaraderie of working together with other nurses.
I start several IVs and do all my own blood work in the ER.
Before I became an ER nurse, my IV start skills were mediocre at best. Now, my IV skills are so much better, and I can get intravenous access in some of the most challenging veins. This is a result of having frequent opportunities to start IVs during each ER shift.
The very best IV nurses are the ones who are constantly challenged by patients who are difficult IV sticks. To gain valuable IV start skills, you want to put yourself in a position to have as many opportunities to learn as possible. The ER is a perfect place for that.
It makes sense that ER nurses are great at starting IVs. 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 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.
I love caring for a varied patient population.
Every day is an adventure. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but it’s never boring in the ER. I have had patients ranging in age from 2 days to over 100 years old. Patients come to the ER with every type of illness, injury, and trauma you can think of. Our patient loads include, but is not limited to: various types of trauma patients, septic patients, elderly patients, organ transplanted patients, patients with cancer or autoimmune diseases, psych patients, small children and babies, and so much more. There is rarely a dull moment and always something new to learn.
I love the 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. From the outside, it might look like craziness, but the madness always has a method.
I often struggle with the tediousness of tasks when working on a med surg unit. It is often jam-packed, but very task-based. The to-do lists can get a little ridiculous.
I love the intellectual stimulation I get in the ER.
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 maintain my sense of humor in the ER.
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 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?
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 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 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.
What specialty do you love? If you could change and do one thing, what would it be?
Additional Recommended Reading:
*This post about financial planning for nurses contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.
Nurses work hard for the money. But they need to be saving more of it. Unquestionably, this is the best financial advice for nurses today.
During my first few tumultuous weeks as a new grad nurse, a mentor with over 20 years of nursing experience gave me some invaluable advice, “Save your money now,” she said. “Pay off your school loans and automate your savings so you don’t even see it. “As a second career nurse, I already had a decent 401k from a previous career selling medical equipment, but it was great advice that I needed to be reminded of now that I was beginning my new career as an RN.
Over the years, I have found that nurses are very good at worrying about the health and well-being of others before their own. Our financial health needs to be given as much attention as we devote to our patients.
Everything in nursing is evidence-based. Are nurses ignoring the evidence that compounding interest is the secret to growing wealth slowly and ensuring their financial health into their golden years?
The best financial advice for nurses is to start saving more money for retirement at a younger age.
Are nurses making what they are worth?
Many nurses choose the profession because they are passionate about patient care, and they want to make a positive impact in the world – not because they are trying to become millionaires. But nurses still deserve to make a decent living and have the ability to afford decent retirement savings by the time 70 rolls around. Unfortunately, many nurses are deferring retirement because they simply cannot afford it.
Recently, someone said to me that they thought nurses made too much money. My jaw practically hit the floor. “Too much?” I must have heard that wrong. Is it possible that what he meant was “too little?” Unfourtuanlety, I heard it right the first time.
So I asked, “how much is your life worth?” As an emergency room nurse, I work with the most kick-ass, life-saving nurses out there. All the nurses at my hospital are breaking their backs to help people. Yet despite our sacrifices, we are increasingly underappreciated for the hard work we do. (By the way, he never told me how much he thought his life was worth. He just kept insisting that we are so overpaid for the work we do).
What is the future of nursing going to look like?
I live in California, where we still are fortunate enough to have this thing called “safe patient ratios.” And we still have a nursing union, so I consider myself luckier than many nurses. I hear the nursing conditions in some states are deplorable. (Although due to a recent vote in the Supreme Court, both our union and safe patient ratios may be in jeopardy of going away here someday as well).
In light of this and other new developments, I foresee a few changes within my workplace and the nursing field that may negatively affect my working conditions. Healthcare is a business in the United States. Nurses are in the business of saving human lives while our hospitals are in the business of saving money. What profession do you think will be the first to take a pay cut?
Is the wear-and-tear of nursing worth it?
Not to keep harping on the bad, but while I’m at it, there’s this: I worry about how long I can physically be a hospital nurse before I hurt myself. I have been a nurse for seven years, and I am already experiencing chronic back pain.
Many hospitals are failing to protect the nursing staff from becoming patients. And studies are showing that proper technique when moving patients still exposes nurses spines to dangerous forces. In light of these concerns, I am exploring other ways I can continue to practice nursing outside of the hospital setting.
Nurse, save your money now.
I am saving and investing as much money as I can with each paycheck. It is the wise thing to do and, frankly, who knows how long I will be able to work. Besides, there will always be employers out there who want to pay nurses less than we deserve. We can’t just keep taking care of everybody else’s needs at the detriment of our financial well-being.
If you are not already, save as much as you can now and make your savings automatic. This is singularly the best financial advice for nurses. Your future self will thank you for it.
Please leave a comment below. We love hearing from our readers!
Additional Recommend Reading:
(This baby proofing checklist post may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
To all new parents: just in case you didn’t know, you need to baby-proof your house!
It all happens so fast. First, the baby starts to roll and crawl. Then they start “cruising.” And finally, your sweet little bundle of joy takes his or her first Frankenstein steps. And just like that, you have a walker!
Now, I may be just a tad overzealous when it comes to baby-proofing our house. After all, I am an ER nurse, and I have seen what can happen when a home isn’t baby proofed. (To top that off, our 8-month-old baby just started cruising with his Vtech walker. Gasp!)
I wrote this baby proofing checklist in honor of emergency nurses week and my desire to encourage other parents to take an active stance in baby proofing their homes. If you are anything like us, you may be a tad bit sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. I hope this list helps to make it easier to create a more baby-friendly home
Why is having a baby proofing checklist so essential?
You would be surprised at how quickly babies can hurt themselves. The prevention of accidental injuries is the #1 reason why babies need safe physical boundaries in place.
Think of it like this: Playtime + baby-proofed home = safe space for growth and learning opportunities!
As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our kids are in a safe environment. Children need a secure place to get messy, play, explore, learn, and have fun.
Here are a few things to consider when baby proofing your home:
The first item on our baby proofing checklist is the safety gate. One second your baby is playing in one spot, the next they are on the other side of the house trying to open up the cutlery drawer in the kitchen. Once babies learn how to crawl or walk, they can be surprisingly fast! Safety gates help keep kiddos within a safe area. Remember that you want to make sure safety gates are screwed into the wall if they are at the top of a staircase.
Note: Although safety gates are a great way to keep your baby safer, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get hurt on them. A study from 2014 found that as many as 2,000 U.S. kids visit the emergency room for treatments resulting from injuries caused by climbing or falling through gates.
Although they appear to be just tiny pieces of plastic, corner guards and edge bumpers have been instrumental in preventing a few very BIG injuries. Why? Because many corners on tables and shelves are at the same height as toddler’s heads when they are standing (or worse, running). Hello, head injury!
If your toddler runs into the corner of a piece of furniture with a corner guard or edge bumper, they are much less likely to sustain a serious head injury. We have corner guards on our kitchen table, coffee table, bookshelf edges, fireplace, and even our bedroom side tables.
Doesn’t it seem as if toddlers like to explore in every space you DON’T want them to be? Small children are curious creatures, and forbidden places are exciting to them. They love testing their boundaries. Doorknob covers are great for keeping little ones out of the areas you don’t want them wandering into. Especially places like broom closets, bathrooms, or out the front door.
Door nob covers just spin in circles if a toddler tries to open it. But adults can easily open it by squeezing it tightly and turning the knob.
Screens are not enough to keep a child from falling out of a window. And if children can open a window, then there is the possibility of an accident. Children can be resourceful by climbing on furniture or toys to reach windows, so even if you think there is no way they could reach them, window guards are still a good idea.
Side note: I don’t love that these window guards do not let me put the windows up all the way. But I would rather have them in place than risk having a horrible accident.
Toddlers love exploration and will open up every single drawer and cabinet in your home. And if there is one that isn’t locked, I assure you, they will find it! Use safety latches to keep household chemicals, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous things out of the reach of tiny hands.
There are several types of safety locks that you can buy depending on how much you want to spend and how much work you want to put in. We use the 3M safety locks and they work great. You can install them instantly without any drilling and can uninstall them easily when you no longer need them.
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the house for a toddler. It wouldn’t be difficult for a tiny hand to reach up and turn on a stove the moment you are not looking. Stove knob covers work very much like doorknob covers and makes it impossible for a toddler to turn on.
Note: It is a good idea to get into a new habit of using only the rear stove burners to reduce the chances that your little ones can get burned. If you do need to use the front burners, always make sure the handles of any pots or pans are facing inwards so those little ones can’t pull them off the stove and sustain a burn injury.
The toilet bowl is a fascinating place for toddlers, and they may feel inclined to look inside the bowl to see what is in there. They may even try and pull themselves up onto the toilet. However, a toddler’s head is huge in proportion to their body. The weight of their heads would make it hard to pull themselves out if they accidentally fell in. So make it impossible for them to pull the lid up with a toilet lock cover.
It is a good idea to secure all tip-able furniture to the wall. As toddlers become more mobile they may climb on furniture, such as a bookshelf, causing it to tip over. Secondly, in the event of an earthquake, you don’t want any heavy furniture falling over on the little humans below (we live in California, so we have to think about that here!). For aesthetics, you can anchor furniture from the backside so you can’t even see it unless you are looking.
I hope you enjoyed reading this baby proofing checklist, written by an emergency room nurse & mom. It is always better to plan ahead and create safe spaces for our little ones. Accidents happen fast, but by setting up a few safety systems throughout the house, you can decrease the chances of having to take your child to the emergency room. Stay safe!
What are you doing to baby-proof your home?
Additional recommended reading:
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!
To the mom, who is also a Nurse: You are incredible.
I recognize your hard work, and I empathize with your struggle. And you are holding it together way better then you realize.
Being a nurse is hard work. Being a Mom is hard work. Add the two together, and you have one incredibly hard-working, badass, multitasking superhero with skills that can save lives. It’s a pretty awesome combination.
When I first graduated from college with my journalism degree (many years before I went back for my BSN), I entered the field of medical equipment sales. I spent my time selling medical devices to surgeons in operating rooms up and down the west coast. I probably worked with hundreds of nurses during that time, and from an outsider’s perspective, I thought the nurse’s job was easy.
Then I went to nursing school. And it pretty much kicked my butt from start to finish. I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
There is a nurse’s code of ethics that requires we protect our patients and give them the best care we possibly can. When Nurse Moms leave after a long, often grueling 12-hour shift, their job doesn’t stop. In actuality, they just go home to their other full-time job: motherhood.
Nurse Moms know that toddlers are like tiny little psych patients.
In the emergency room, I deal with every single type of mental and psychiatric disorder ever documented in literature. Nurses work with everything from homicidal schizophrenia to depression or anxiety and everything in between.
Some of the irrational conversations I have with my two-year-old remind me of some of the patients I have had to deal with at the hospital. For example, I have watched her throw herself on the floor in a fit of tears because I didn’t peel the banana “the right way.” Sometimes it even happens in public, which is always a fun treat for me!
Nurse Moms learn not to react to these toddler meltdowns because it only makes things worse, just like it does with an irrational patient. Unfortunately, I can’t call a security guard to help me with my toddler like I can with a combative patient (although it would be nice!).
For the Nurse Mom, the poo never stops coming.
Nurses deal with a lot of poo. Sometimes patients are incontinent, or they have diarrhea, or they just need help. As a Nurse, it’s absolutely no big deal to clean and change adult diapers. Its primary care, and it is essential.
After work, the Nurse Mom with little ones continues to deal with poo. Therefore, poo pretty much exists in every aspect of their life, both at home and at work. For that reason, I think the Nurse Mom deserves some acknowledgment.
But its OK. Its just poo.
Nurse moms never stop caring about others’ needs first – despite the many challenges they face.
Nurse Moms don’t sweat the small stuff.
Moms who are also nurses are usually more concerned about the things that might kill someone.
Sure, a broken arm would suck, and NO mom wants to see their child in pain. But a broken bone won’t kill you. Like, for example, falling out a window in a home that is not childproofed.
Nurse Moms make sure their homes are safe for their kids, but don’t helicopter parent them from ever injuring themselves. Kids grow and learn a lot through play, and they are going to get hurt once in a while. Minor injuries are a part of childhood.
Additional recommended reading: Alternative Medicine: Unique Careers Within Nursing
Nursing and motherhood are a work of heart!
Being a Nurse Mom makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have healthy children.
During my ER nurse training program, I got an opportunity to work in our pediatric unit. I assure you pediatric nurses I worked with are nothing short of amazing!
Many pediatric nurses work with parents who practically live at the hospital for weeks, months, or 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.
The motherhood/nurse combination is a challenging balance (especially for the pumping mom!), but it is also an honor and a privilege that many women are grateful to have. So next time you run into a Nurse Mom who looks tired, know that it’s possible that she hasn’t slept in a week. And give her a high-five.
Additional recommended reading:
Don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter exclusively for Nurse Moms!