The Best and Worst Things About Being an ER Nurse
By Leigh Morgan, contributor
All nurses must be able to prioritize patients according to their acuity, but this is especially true of ER nurses. As an emergency room nurse, you must be able to triage incoming patients, make accurate psychosocial assessments and use a wide variety of clinical skills, all while responding to emergencies as they arise. If you are interested in this travel specialty, it's important to have a clear understanding of what ER nursing entails. Before accepting an offer, read on to find out the best and worst things about being an ER nurse.
ER nurses see something different every shift
One of the best things about working as an ER travel nurse is that every day is a little bit different. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 145.6 million ER visits in the United States in 2016, with 8.7% of those visits resulting in hospital admission. With so many people visiting emergency rooms each day, you are bound to encounter a challenging case, a memorable patient or something you've never seen before. Working as a travel ER nurse offers even more variety because you may have the opportunity to work in a small rural hospital one month and a world-renowned urban healthcare center the next month.
If you're ready to put your skills to the test in a busy emergency department, visit the Travel Nursing job board to search for ER nursing opportunities throughout the United States.
You get to see a wide variety of medical conditions
If you worked as a registered nurse in a gastroenterologist's office, you'd only get to work with patients who have GI orders or need screening to determine what is causing their GI symptoms. For nurses who prefer a little more variety, the emergency room is a great place to work. In a statistical brief reporting the results of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), Weiss et al. report that the following conditions are the most common among ER patients who are discharged after receiving care in the emergency room:
- Acute bronchitis
- Superficial injuries
- Open wounds of the head, neck and extremities
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Intervertebral disk disorders
- Viral infections
Weiss et al. also report that the following conditions are the most common among ER patients who are admitted to the hospital:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Treating patients with such a wide variety of injuries and illnesses creates opportunities for ER nurses to learn new skills and become more confident in their abilities.
Your skills can easily be transferred to other environments
When you work as an ER travel nurse, the skills you develop can be used in almost any setting. ER nurses frequently place Foley catheters, hook up heart monitors and perform other duties that are applicable to medical-surgical wards, intensive-care units and other medical environments.
The ER is a stressful environment
When considering the best and worst things about being an ER nurse, the high stress level is one of the biggest disadvantages. Healy and Tyrrell report that ER nurses and other staff members are routinely involved in stressful incidents, including resuscitation efforts and witnessing the deaths of patients. Working as a travel ER nurse can also be physically demanding, heightening stress levels.
You may be exposed to violence on the job
Violence is a concern for all types of nurses, but ER nurses are exposed to violent behavior on a regular basis. When the Massachusetts Nurses Association conducted a survey on the issue, 69% of respondents stated that they had been assaulted by a patient within the previous two years, reports Boston 25 News.
According to the Boston 25 report, encounters with violent patients are becoming more common due to the opioid epidemic. In some states, patients under the influence of opioids are taken into protective custody and transported to the emergency room for treatment. As a result, it is ER nurses and other staff members who must deal with their violent behavior, not police officers or jail employees. Violent patients may engage in the following behaviors, according to Pitts and Schaller:
- Physical assault
- Verbal harassment
- Insulting gestures
- Sexual harassment
As a travel nurse, you have the opportunity to increase your income by accepting short-term assignments in all departments or geographic locations. Many medical facilities are dealing with a shortage of ER nurses, making this a great time to explore opportunities in emergency nursing.
RELATED:How Competitive is an ER Travel Nurse Salary?