(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 think being an ER nurse is the best.
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 communicate frequently 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, often times 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 am able to get intravenous access in some of the most difficult 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 with patients who are difficult IV sticks. To gain valuable IV start skills you want to put yourself in 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 extremely busy, 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 everyday 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 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.
What specialty do you love? If you could change and do one thing what would it be? I love hearing from readers. Please leave a comment!
Additional Recommended Reading:
There are so many different types of nurses in different specialties that work within the hospital setting. So how do you figure out which one is right for you?
When I was initially toying with the idea of going back to college to become a nurse I had no idea how many types of nursing specialties there actually were. I thought there was just a single “type” of nurse who did pretty much everything.
I was so wrong. That just shows how little I actually knew about the nursing world back then! In fact, I think many potential nurses who are contemplating getting a BSN may think the same thing as I once did.
The good news about starting out in nursing school is that you don’t have to make a decision about what type of nursing specialty you want to go into right away. At least not until you get closer to the end of nursing school and start interviewing for jobs. In addition, you can even change your nursing specialty during your career if you want (I did it and reignited my passion for nursing). So, if you find you don’t enjoy one specialty after a while, you can look into others that might better suit you.
This particular post explores nursing career specialties within the hospital. If you don’t want to work in the hospital, that’s OK. There are a ton of opportunities to explore as a new grad nurse outside of the hospital setting too! However, if the hospital setting is for you (as it was for me) then this is a quick and dirty explanation of the different types of nurses and nursing specialties that may be available to you!
Nursing Specialties & Opportunities In The Hospital Setting
There are literally dozens of different nursing specialties and levels of care in the hospital to choose from. When deciding on a specialty it may help to start with the level of care that works best with your personality and then work from there. While some nursing students think the intensity of working in an emergency room might be exhilarating, others may prefer to start out by learning on a medical surgical unit instead.
The next step may be to consider which patient age groups you would most enjoy working with. For example, a nursing school friend of mine knew from the moment she applied to nursing school that she had to be a pediatric nurse. Yet another student friend was passionate about working in the geriatric community. Some nurses find that they love working with newborn babies or children, while others find that they enjoy the intensity of managing patients at the ICU level of care.
Lastly, as you start studying more about the different body systems and doing clinical hours, you can decide which specialties that you are most interested in. Being a student nurse is a great time to learn all about the different types of nurses in the hospital you might want to work in!
Hospital Levels of Care
Medical Surgical Care, otherwise known as Med/Surg, is the largest nursing specialty in the United States. Med/Surg nurses care for adult patients who are acutely ill with a wide variety of medical issues or are recovery from surgery. Nurses on these units often care for 4-5 patients (or more) depending on acuity.
Telemetry Unit patients are often more acutely ill and need constant monitoring. Patients here are monitored with telemetry monitors that allow nurses to review a patient’s vital signs constantly so they can give more detailed care. Often, Med/Surg and Telemetry patients are referred to interchangeably as many Telemetry Units have both types of patients.
Intensive Care Units
An Intensive Care Unit, otherwise known as an ICU or Critical Care Unit is a unit that provides a higher level of intensive patient care. Patients in the ICU often have severe and life-threatening injuries which require constant, close monitoring. Nurses in the ICU usually only care for 1 or 2 patients at a time due to the high acuity of the patient care.
ER nurses treat patients in emergent situations who are involved in a trauma or other life threatening injuries. These nurses deal with patients from all age groups involving many different levels of patient care. You may have patients with illnesses and wounds ranging from dog bites or minor burns to more serious conditions such as strokes or other trauma victims.
Patient Age Groups
Hospital units are also broken into different age groups to offer more specialized care. This is also something to consider when deciding on a specialty you want to work in. Some of the age groups include:
There is a general list of hospital specialty units that many nurses work in:
- Liver Transplant
- Emergency Room
- Operating Room
Are you thinking about becoming a nurse and wondering what nursing specialties might be best for you? Or do you have any other questions about the different types of nurses in the hospital setting? Please leave a comment or question below!
If you know anything about me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE yoga (its a little obsessive actually).
And as you also know, I really love to write about how to help nurses take better care of themselves.
Which is why I was so excited to write a guest post for a travel nursing blog titled 3 Very Important Reasons Why Travel Nurses Need Yoga. (Please check it out here!).
Travel nurses have a lot on their plate! They take travel assignments in cities where they’ve never even been and then work in different units with entirely new staff. And then when they finally think they have everything figured out their assignment ends and they go someplace else!
On top of that they also have the physical and mental stress that comes with working 12 hours shifts.
Travel nurses need yoga.
By taking care of ourselves we are able to replenish our reserves and take better care of our patients and families. There is an endless amount of studies on yoga and its amazing benefits on physical and mental health.
As nurses, we need to practice what we preach and help lead our patients by example. Why should our patients take better care of themselves both physically and mentally if we are not doing it ourselves?
My Yoga Props Essentials:
I love this mat because it doesn’t get slippery once I start getting sweaty during a yoga practice. It is a thicker, more durable mat with a great chakra design.
Cork yoga blocks are the best. I love these blocks because they are durable and have a really good grip. They can assist with alignment and help you get deeper into many yoga poses.
These are amazing for restorative chest opening poses! I have 2 of these in blue and purple. I use them all the time to help me wind down after nursing shifts. I also love using the booster to put my hips and legs up the wall after being on my feet for a twelve hour shift!