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A Day in the Life of an ER Nurse

March 15, 2019

As an emergency room nurse at Orlando Health I get to make a difference in a patient’s life at a time when they are most in need of care. I'd even say it's one of the rare nursing specialties where you can physically see the difference you've made for a patient almost immediately. Whether it's something simple, such as helping a patient relieve the pain of a migraine, or something major, such as helping deliver a child or resuscitating a patient who came in without a pulse, you see the impact right away.

A Typical Day 

How my typical day goes depends on the job I'm assigned that day. For example, as the emergency department triage nurse, my role is to be the gatekeeper, assessing every patient who comes to the ER and determining if they need a bed assignment immediately or if they can wait. On quiet, less eventful days, we might see only a few patients with minor issues, such as weird pains in their toes or stomach aches. On busier days, we might encounter things like an unconscious patient who was just left outside our front door or a family member driving up with a loved one bleeding in the vehicle.

On other days, I might be assigned the role of primary staff RN, which means I have a specific set of rooms and it’s my responsibility to care for every patient placed in any of those rooms. For each patient, it's my job to assess them for possible diagnoses, intervene immediately if necessary and know when to notify the physician because the patient's condition has changed. As staff RN, I’m also responsible for completing assigned treatments, such as inserting an IV, obtaining lab specimens and administering medications.

Assessing Each Patient

ER nurses must be able to assess, evaluate and intervene with patients who may have a severe health crisis. Male nurse assessing patientWe have to be able to accurately assess every patient to determine if they are suffering from a life-threatening emergency and need immediate care — and we must be able to do it quickly.

As an ER nurse, it’s important that I have a solid understanding of how to assess any patient, regardless of age or condition, along with expertise in disease pathophysiology and pharmacology. I must be able to understand what is considered a normal or abnormal finding, whether the patient is only two months old or is in their 70s or 80s.

A Fast Pace

Despite the fast pace and variety of patients I treat as an ER nurse, people sometimes find it strange that my biggest challenge is time management. With everything going on in an emergency room, it sometimes can feel like you’re spinning your wheels, jumping from one immediate need to the next. Still, it's our responsibility to provide the best possible care to our patients.

Overall, I really enjoy working with patients and communicating with their families to help them feel reassured as much as possible. I understand that it can be scary if you have to go to the emergency room because you've fallen off your bike and might have a concussion, or because your baby has a fever that you can't get under control. It's truly fulfilling to be a part of the team that offers you confidence that you’re in good hands.

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