If you give 40mg IV of lasix to a CHF exacerbation, offer to put in a foley (if pt needs it), and empty it and let the RN know the output after a while (or when it's full). Don't forget to grab a sample if the patient needs a UA! Never empty a foley until you KNOW you don't need urine out of it - trust me.
Have a peek at the patient's hx, if they're diabetic but being treated for something else, we still need to check their suger. Offer to do it or ask when it needs to be done.
Note when VS were last done - go grab a new set after a couple hours or more often if pt isn't looking great. Never hurts to have 'em.
Note which labs have been ordered, and have come back. Missing the CBC after everything else is back? Ask the nurse - should you call the lab and check on it?
Do you have a patient who needs a full bladder for an ultrasound? Check in with her, make sure she's drinking, and let the nurse know when she has to pee. Don't LET HER PEE!
Did your patient just get brought back from CT or X-ray or whereever? Go put him back on his leads and sat monitor, put his nasal canula back on him and grab a quick check on vitals.
Find out what admit paperwork needs to be done. Can you go do the property checklist with the patient while the nurse does the transfer form (for example)?
While you're going to be with a nurse while you're there, you can do small(er) things on your own while she's busy charting/talking to a doc/dealing with fire rescue/giving report or whatever. It doesn't take 2 people to do everything and you can't be over her shoulder all the time. The trick is, do things you KNOW you can do without permission. Like measuring a foley output, taking VS when it's not been done in a couple hours, checking with your/your nurses' assigned patients to see if they need anything like an extra blanket. Update the nurse if the pt. or family says/does/looks like something new and pertient.
Anything that could be "internal" such as giving food/drink, placing a line/tube into someone, giving a med, drawing a lab, should of course be checked with your nurse.
Does a lot of this sound like "tech work"? Yeah you could say that but very few ERs have enough techs and all your patients need all this stuff done. Who's responsible? The nurse. Period. End of discussion.
The stuff above is only a tiny percent of the things an ER nurse has to think of for his/her patients, but they're all important.
I did my leadership rotation in the ER I now work in. Did nearly 2 years of med-surg after nursing school before coming here. But I always remembered and loved my leadership experience. I learned SO much! If you're proactive on the "little things" that need to be done, your nurse will have more time to walk you through the stuff I know you want to get experience in - placing IVs, foleys, NGs, assessment skills, and all the other exciting stuff!
Do I love the ER - YEP YEP YEP. Good luck!