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Role Transition: ER: Home

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Emergency Room Nurse

What is an Emergency Room nurse?

Emergency Room Nurses specialize in caring for people who are in medical crisis. These nurses are trained to quickly assess patients’ needs and treat or triage them accordingly. After paramedics and EMTs, ER nurses are the first staff to care for a patient in an emergent situation. Best suited to this role are nurses who appreciate the fast-pace and challenge of not knowing exactly who is coming through the door and what may be wrong with them. The ER nurse enjoys helping patients, and doesn't allow the emotions of patients in trauma to affect their mindset.

What does an Emergency Room nurse do?

Alongside the interdisciplinary team, the ER nurse performs all types of tasks - from icing a swollen ankle to performing CPR and treating victims of major trauma. The severity of patients and the amount of patients in a shift varies. The theme among these tasks is a through and insightful evaluation to determine the extent of injuries, and the development of an appropriate course of action to achieve stabilization, and balancing other patients' needs. Common tasks include administering medication, fluid resuscitation, blood transfusions, wound care, device placement, and much more.

What Are the Roles & Duties of an Emergency Room Nurse?

  • Prioritize patient care based on need, staffing and acuity
  • Observe, collect and document patient data according to nursing best practice
  • Identify problems with a patient and moves swiftly to implement appropriate intervention
  • Assess every patient's response to intervention such as medications and treatments
  • Administer and document medications as per hospital policy. Conversely, does not administer medications or prescriptions such as opiates through emergency room intake
  • Record changes in patient status and reports accordingly; documents doctor response for actions to be taken
  • Record care plan that encompasses patient education component.
  • Show leadership with emergency response team, and ancillary personnel should the patient be admitted for further monitoring or stabilization
  • Mentor and engage with clinical and support staff to advance the education, communication and leadership of the department as individuals and as a whole.
  • Provide direction and instruction to patients' family members and advocates in a manner that is respectful of their dynamic and willingness to learn
  • Provide care to assigned patients
  • Perform the technical requirements of nursing care that fall within the scope of the nursing role at that facility
  • Accurately and quickly perform all duties
  • Exhibit good physical, mental and emotional health
  • Behave within the nursing professional code of ethics at all times
  • Have up-to-date knowledge of nursing theory and skills; be willing to continually upgrade to meet current challenges and professional developments

What are the most common conditions treated in the ER?

Emergency nurses encounter many conditions with varying degrees of severity—ailments range anywhere from a sore throat to a heart attack.

  • Headaches
  • Foreign objects in body
  • Skin infections
  • Back pain
  • Contusions and cuts
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Broken bones and sprains
  • Toothaches
  • Abdominal pains
  • Chest pains

Differences between ICU and Emergency Room nurses:

ER nurses treat patients coming through hospital emergency departments for a variety of reasons – trauma, injury, and acute-onset symptoms.  Most patients are experiencing emergency, life-threatening situations, and ER nurses must be quick to recognize those acute problems and be able to resolve or stabilize them immediately upon arrival. The job is fast-paced, full of adrenaline rushes, and completely unpredictable shift-to-shift. 

On the alternate end of the spectrum, ICU nurses treat patients who require the highest acuity of care in a very structured and controlled setting. In order to treat the most critical patients in the most thorough manner, critical care nurses use their specialized skills and extensive knowledge of disease pathology to provide interventions that sustain life. ICU nurses work quickly, efficiently, independently, and meticulously. They care for the most fragile of patients who hang on to life by a thread. The environment is structured, high acuity, and multifaceted.

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