An ED Nurse in the Making

  1. After years of what seems like endless work, I finally got my dream job! This summer I'll be starting a new RN Grad ED Residency Program. Over the course of one year, I'll receive training not only on the floor with a preceptor nurse, but also in a classroom setting and during shadows on other specialty units. I truly can't express how excited I am to finish my degree this spring and start working!

    I'm curious if any other ED nurses or nurses who have been through similar programs have any advice for me? I want to be as prepared as I can be when I start working. I'm well aware that this program is going to involve a lot of ups and downs and nothing can fully prepare me for the chaos of the ED except actually doing the job, but any advice would be very much appreciated!
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    About hannahsannah

    Joined: Jan '18; Posts: 1; Likes: 1
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience


  3. by   amyjm333
    Hi there! I am a newer ED Nurse and there are a few tips/tricks/notes that I feel can help any new ED Nurse:
    1. Realize that a very large percentage of ER nursing is not dealing with actual emergent patients. You will be kept very busy with patients there due to conditions that are best dealt with in a primary care setting.

    2. Learn to anticipate orders. In many ERs there are policies which guide the treatment of our patients. For example, nearly every person complaining of abdominal pain above the umbilicus will get: EKG, IV start with a 20g or larger in a sturdy vein like the AC (for Possible CT contrast dye), standard blood labs, CT scan, and urine sample will need to be provided for urinalysis. For a cough, our patients get: Blood labs, urinalysis, chest X-ray. These are just examples but my point is that many ED orders are ordered by the docs in a predetermined "set", based on policy, so knowing what your organization's policies regarding standard orders can save you lots of time and steps.

    3. You will be busy! The plus side to this is that time flies in an ER. A 12 or 13 hr shift is not bad at all when you don't have time to be "bored".

    4. This should probably be #1, but never be afraid to ask questions. What I find helpful is to ask coworkers when I need an answer for something but to always follow up by actually reading the policy regarding that specific situation. Which leads to #5

    5. There is a policy for EVERYTHING. Lol. Be sure to learn early on how to access your organizations policies and procedures.

    6. Always assess and re-assess. Not only does this assure that you are aware of your patients status, but you are assisting in the through-put of the department. The more the docs know about the pts condition, the easier it is for them to make a decision once the tests are back about how they want to dispo the patient (meaning make a decision about if the pt will be admitted/transferred/discharged). This helps move pts out of the Department.

    7. Learn how to get information quickly from your patients. This is a skill I am still working on myself. It is important but can be difficult to get the proper and relevant information from your patient without going overboard. It is a learned skill to be able to recognize and draw out the important stuff while moving quickly past the irrelevant info the patients often want to talk about. Listen closely to the specific questions more seasoned nurses ask during their initial assessments and you'll get the hang of what is important to ask.

    8. Never be afraid to help your fellow nurses. Emergency nursing can be overwhelming to even the most experienced nurse when there is tons to do and not enough time or hands to do it. If you make a habit of helping others, the favor will be returned.

    I have only been working in the ER for about 11 months, so I have lots to learn still, but I absolutely love being an ER RN!! Good luck with your new position! I bet you will love it too! Just remember not to get discouraged. It's ALOT at first for all of us. You just have to push past that discomfort and eventually you will have some sense of confidence in your abilities to get things done (or find the resource who can!).
    Last edit by amyjm333 on Jan 27 : Reason: Autocorrect!
  4. by   Soon2beNurseSmith
    Quote from amyjm333
    Hi there! I am a newer ED Nurse and there are a few tips/tricks/notes that I feel can help any new ED Nurse:

    Awesome response!
  5. by   Armygirl7
    I've been in the ER going on 7 years. I started in a new grad program, it was awesome, and very challenging, to go from student to ER nurse!

    One thing I had to realize quickly was that I was no longer a student! Even though we spent a great deal of time in classroom settings and trainings that first 6 months, even though I was rotating around through EMS and all the ICUs and Psych, I had the full responsibility of my license to carry. Like it wasn't OK if I didn't know the answer to something anymore, it couldn't wait till I got home and could look it up! It's always OK to not have every answer at the tip of your tongue (you can never know everything), but I had to know HOW to get the exact right answer and how to get it FAST! I had to develop a plan and get to understand all available resources.

    Giving report was much more weighted with responsibility suddenly - I wasn't reporting off to my Professor who could chide me or ask me questions and nudge me to notice any omissions or mistakes. Suddenly I'm a new grad RN and I'm on the phone wth a kick-ass CTICU or MICU nurse giving report and wow did I get schooled a few times!

    So develop a system for how you find answers quickly when action is required. You get a patient with hypertensive crisis and a head injury needs a Cardene drip titrated or some other critical drug (and dangerous drug) what methods are available to you to check the appropriateness of the order, the dose, etc? What's the policy for how that patient is monitored? You have to move fast in the ER but you also cannot take any shortcuts with it's very stressful the first year when EVERY situation is new and many drugs are unfamiliar.

    Drug orders are verified by Pharmacy in our ER but not critical stat orders, and in a code or other sh*t show crash verbal orders will fly at you in the Trauma Room. Sometimes we had a Pharmacist in the ER and I could grab her and ask a quick question, sometimes, especially on nights, I called the Pharmacy to ask questions. You have to be thick skinned and curious and not proud! Sometimes you have NO extra 30 seconds to call Pharmacy, you can't leave the bedside, patient is dying - so what's your plan?

    I'm just using drug orders as an example - drugs are just one of many interventions that you are expected to deliver expertly and quickly. I realized I needed a laminated cheat sheet of critical (deadly) drugs that fit in my pocket. I needed a laminated little list of all the inter-department extensions (Blood Bank, the Lab, Micro, Pharmacy, Anaesthesia, the OR, Respiratory, MICU Resident spectralink, ER RIC (resident in charge) spectralink; ER charge nurse spectralink, ER Manager spectralink, Educator spectralink, Social Work, Psych, ADN, etc.) And let me tell you I carry those laminated babies with me to this day!!

    I learned I can never be afraid or too proud to just speak up and say "I need help here, now!" or "That dose doesn't sound right to me can you re-check?" Some Docs or Residents will get irritated with your question, so you have to be thick skinned - so what if they have to dbl check a wt based calculation, I don't mind being wrong, I just don't want to kill anyone. That same Doc will come and hug you when you save their a** from a med error!

    In fact, it is the Team spirit that I love about the ER, and now that I know my stuff I love to help out anyone who needs a hand or a 2nd pair of eyes on a drug order or dose, or a 2nd set of hands to clean up a disaster of body fluids! We get through it all together.

    In that first year (and of course even today) when I'd get home or had a day off I had stuff I needed to review and learn more about. But in the moment, on the job, I had to develop my own style and method for getting accurate answers quickly, right then when they are needed. You learn which nurses are your allies and who you can trust. You learn quickly that some of the Residents are actually not very good, and that you have to double check all their orders!! And you're never alone, your preceptor will have some methods that work for you, and some you will develop your ow style.

    Oh man, it is a wild ride that first year in the ER - but hang tough, develop your own methods for swift safe practice, and just keep learning. It's a great place to work! Good Luck!