Emergency nurses are highly trained and educated registered nurses who are responsible for dealing with patients who are either in a critical phase of their illness or are severely injured.
As an emergency nurse you play a critical role in maintaining the safety and well-being of your patients and medical team during and after an operation.
Not only do emergency nurses need to be extremely careful in protecting themselves and those involved, they also need to know what to look out for in order to avoid possible injuries and/or infections.
In this field of nursing emergency room nurses are often faced with moving in a fast paced environment.
In many cases the emergency department of a hospital can easily become overcrowded forcing nurses to multitask in order to balance and prioritize their patients and their time.
The fact is most individuals (patients included) simply aren’t aware of how dangerous it can be to work in a hospital.
As hospitals become increasingly populated with patients reports of emergency department violence also increases and because of this increase in violence ER nurses are sometimes accompanied by police officers and other peace officers in order to maintain their safety with violent patients who may be suffering from mental illnesses or inundated with drugs and/or alcohol.
The Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics alone reported that more than 4.000 health care professionals had experienced verbal and/or physical assault while working in the ER department in 2005.
To address these issues several steps are being implemented to aid in decreasing the chances of violence experienced by ER nurses and staff.
One of these steps includes the possibility of legislation increasing the penalty for perpetrators either causing or attempting to cause threats and/or violence to ER nurses and the hospital staff.
There are also various training programs being taught in hospitals and other health care institutions, which are aimed at resolving and/or dealing with potential violence and/or threatening situations.
Aside from patient violence what else is dangerous about being an emergency nurse?
According to the International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation as released by the International Labour Organization, there are “at least”seven primary dangers emergency room nurses can be exposed to (note that these dangers may be subject to change).
1. In order to keep patients from becoming infected by medical equipment during an operation ER nurses are responsible for cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing medical equipment. Because of this emergency room nurses may be exposed to agents that can damage the skin, mucous membranes and/or respiratory system causing the nurse to become infected.
2. Because emergency room nurses work with a variety of medical equipment, chemicals and gases ER nurses may be exposed to anesthetic gases, drugs and radiation.
3. Emergency room nurses can be injured by sharp objects such as needles, incision tools, syringes, blades, scissors, and other similar objects and/or operating equipment.
4. Emergency nurses may make contact with hot surfaces, faulty electrical equipment and other similar objects which can cause skin burns and/or irritations.
5. Sick patients in the emergency room may present a risk of infection from body fluids.
6. Emergency room nurses may suffer from musculoskeletal issues and back pains due to handling heavy patients. Continuous work while standing and walking may cause fatigue and/or leg problems.
7. Emergency room nurses also may suffer from stress and burnout caused by long shifts, highly stressful environments and night work and by other psychological and organizational factors.
The Emergency Nurses Association
The emergency care environment can be extremely stressful both physically and emotionally for health care workers and nurses, and in some cases these experiences may even be traumatic.
Because of the consistent burnout some ER nurses face the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has done an assessment of the possible causes of stress in this field and recognizes the following contributing factors as possible causes for increases in the stress levels of emergency room nurses.
1. Critical incidents that can cause strong emotional feelings/responses which may interfere with the nurses ability to perform his/her duties in the workplace such as
- mass casualties
- natural and unnatural disasters
- unexpected death of a child or co-worker
2. Long term demands may also increase a nurses stress level.
Some of these demands may include:
- long work hours
- job insecurity
- poor communication
- increased potential for workplace violence
The ENA has determined that unresolved issue leading to stress can result in absenteeism, sleep disorders, burn out, emotional difficulties and/or other health problems.
So how can hospitals avoid these situations?
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has provided several pointers to help keep the emergency department safe for the emergency room health workers:
- Nurses should comply with all safety instructions and conduct periodic inspection of electrical medical equipment.
- Nurses and staff members should keeping all work areas and passageways clean, visible and uncluttered.
- All ER staff members should follow appropriate procedures in infection control, and the handling and disposing sharp objects is necessary.
To help resolve some of the stress ER nurses are facing, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) supports the development and utilization of critical incident stress management therapies and activities.
ENA also supports the use of personal stress management strategies such as:
- practiced relaxation
- regular meditation
- a healthy exercise routine
- group therapy
- guided imagery therapy
- humor therapy
- frequent massage’s
The ENA also recognizes the impact of workplace violence on ER nurses and the need for a program to aid in preventing and/or limiting such outcomes from occurring.
Some of these programs include:
- educating nurses, staff and patients about potential violent situations and how to prevent them from occurring
- facilitating the appropriate security measures needed to effectively deal with workplace violence
- The proper identification, reporting and protocols of incidents
Emergency nurses work in a very rewarding field that allows them to save lives, educate people, provide a good standard of living for their families and themselves and improve their education.
Along with these amazing benefits nurses must also face the potential for workplace violence, deal with hazardous material, work with sharp tools, electrical equipment and gases, face unexpected losses and casualties and work in physically and psychologically demanding environments.
As an emergency nurse there can be a lot of compromises in ones own safety, comfort and well-being to save another, but for some the happiness and satisfaction that can be achieved by helping someone else in need may be worth the all risks.