So last week, for those of you who are looking into going into nursing, I started a series of columns geared towards different specialties in the field of nursing. Last week, we looked at private duty nursing, which is similar to home health. This week I want to look at one of the more popular specialties: emergency care nursing.
Emergency care nursing has seen increased popularity due to the multiple TV shows in the past few decades such as “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Trauma: Life in the ER.” These shows depict many rare emergency room situations as happening on a daily basis. To some degree, this gives a false representation of what a day in the ER is like. Those who think that they will be re-attaching arms and massaging hearts every day may be sadly disappointed when they are simply wiping runny noses and passing out enemas in the ER. While the emergency room should be for emergency situations only, with so many uninsured patients, nurses do see many routine sicknesses and things that could’ve been handled in a doctor’s office.
A typical day or night in the emergency room goes something like this:
A nurse comes on to begin their shift and goes through a shift report with the nurse he or she is going to relieve. The patients the outgoing nurse was caring for will now be the oncoming nurse’s responsibility until they are discharged or admitted. As new patients come in, the nurse will check the patient’s vital signs and take the patient’s medical history, as well as documenting what the patient’s chief complaint is.
The doctor then looks at this information and orders any number of tests, including blood work, radiology studies or urinalysis tests. Some hospitals allow the nurses to go ahead and collect blood specimens, while others send in a phlebotomist to take the blood. After the tests have been collected and the physician has read them, the doctor will diagnose the patient and order some form of treatment. It is then the nurse’s responsibility to dispense any medications that are prescribed, as well as give the patient any prescriptions.
One of the most important functions of a nurse in the ER is to answer questions that the doctor may have not had time to answer and educate the patient about their diagnosis. Nurses are a vital part of the emergency room staff, as they follow the patient from input to discharge.
While it would take many articles to fully describe what an emergency care nurse might be required to do, I hope this is a good overview for those interested.
Check back next week when we take a look at a day in the life of the surgical nurse.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.