there isn't any denying that there are lazy nurses out there, and i don't want to make any excuses for them.
i like to think though, that part of learning to prioritize is learning to ration your energy (mental and physical), in addition to learning to ration your time.
i think this is really true in the er, when some patients really need your energy; yet others shouldn't even be there.
when i read your comment about checking a patient's vitals and not going back into the room, i laughed to myself. i consider myself to be a pretty hard-working, kind, compassionate, skilled nurse (most days :) ). but i have to admit that i've been guilty of this.
when i worked in the er, i was usually in triage. but on the days when i was in the back and took patients, it wasn't all that unusual that i would go in, check vs, do a quick assessment, and never see the patient again until i went in with discharge instructions.
for a long time, this really bothered me. i went to the er from icu, and the thought of not at least eyeballing my patient every hour or so was disturbing.
one day, it dawned on me: most patients that come to the er don't need more than a quick assessment, a set of vs, and their discharge paperwork. actually, many don't even need that much. the set of vs they get in triage, plus the set i got when i roomed them, plus the set i got when i discharged them, was pretty much overkill. most don't need to be in the er at all, let alone have their bp and hr checked three times.
i can honestly say that i'm much better at spending some time with what i consider to be the "real" er patients -- you know, pts who are experiencing an actual emergency. obviously, if the patient needs meds or treatments, the nurse will be in the room more often. beyond that, they tend to be scared, and need to be reassured and updated.
(and the patient doesn't have to be a major trauma or an ami to be a "real" er patient. just something that warrants an er visit).
on the other hand, the patients that come in for their repeat utis, yeast infections, mosquito bites ... not only do they usually not really need reassurance, they don't want it, either. they are talking on the phone, or watching tv, or napping, and they want/expect to be left alone until it is time to be discharged.
don't let your reaction deter you from trying er nursing. there really is a place in the er for nurses that want to spend a little time with their patients. you just have to accept that you won't be doing that with all -- or even most -- of your patients.