BY ELLEN DUANE, BS '12, FNP STUDENT | OCTOBER 3, 2017
Once I knew I wanted to be a nurse, I was certain that I should work in the emergency room. I put in my time on a telemetry floor after graduating from the accelerated baccalaureate program in nursing, then immediately began bidding on ER positions when I hit my one-year mark.
In February 2014, I was hired in the ER of a local hospital, and I thought it was a dream come true. I had a year and a half of nursing experience, and in my opinion, I was basically a nurse genius. I found out very quickly that I was more of a nurse novice and I still had a lot to learn.
The ER is fast-paced – you have to know how to prioritize, and there are days where you may not have a chance to sit down. When I first started, I felt like a brand new nurse all over again; I was terrified every day walking into work.
I lasted 8 months in the ER before I decided it wasn’t for me.
I was disappointed with myself but had gained a huge amount of respect for all emergency room staff. An ER cannot function without each individual counterpart, from cleaning staff, to nurse’s assistants, RNs, and providers — every single team member must work together to provide patient care and keep patients moving in and out.
A few weeks after giving notice and leaving the ED for a critical care unit, the November Storm of 2014 – also known in Western New York as “Snowvember” – hit South Buffalo, and I was asked to come into work if there was any way possible. I drove to the Catholic Health building downtown and was taken the rest of the way to the hospital by a man, whom I had never met, driving a Subaru. He got three fellow nurses that were brave (foolish?) enough to navigate the tundra as close as he could to the hospital. We walked the final mile.
I was still on orientation in the CCU, so I was asked to work in the ER since the nurses there had already been working for 20 hours without relief. I jumped in without hesitation, and 52 hours later, I finally realized that the ER was for me after all.
During that 52 hours, we were nonstop busy. The waiting room was full; we had cardiac arrests, critically ill patients – and yet we continued to work together to provide the care that people needed. We were exhausted; some of the nurses hadn’t seen their families in three days, but we put the patients first, and it changed my mind entirely about emergency nursing.
It is still not easy, and there are still days when I’m not sure that it’s for me. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs that I have had in my entire life. Every single day there is an opportunity to learn something new – and to grow, as a nurse and as a person.