First, a little terminology. In a hospital, you do not go to the Emergency Room, you go to the ED – Emergency Department. Also, what the public knows as “intensive care” or “ICU” is now referred to as “critical care.”

During my critical care rotation, my classmates and I got to experience several days of emergency simulations with medical students and residents. And we also experienced a day in a Level 1 Trauma ED.

I loved it.

I saw one major trauma patient, one stroke patient, but mostly confused older adults. Confused older adults get an ambulance called on them because they fell and now have altered mental status or they had a UTI that went undiagnosed and now they are septic. Again, big symptom is altered mental status.

The ED didn’t impress me with their amounts of drama and excitement. I liked the pace. I liked that after 4-6 hours, patients were discharged or sent elsewhere. I know nurses are thought of as compassionate, but sometimes, it’s nice to not deal with your patients for very long. The priorities of an ED nurse are to assess the patient, keep them safe, and if they are admitted, call a complete report to the receiving unit. They keep up to date charting (as in, every hour at the minimum) and need to know their stuff in order to tell the new interns and residents what is really going on with patients.

In my last semester of nursing school, I spent my management clinical in a slower paced ED. While there was no blood, the patients were exciting in their own ways. Some were still fall risks that were trying to climb out of bed; others had code browns or code emesis. And some just had pain or uncontrolled diabetes flare ups. Still safety, quality assessment, and critical judgement were needed.

I doubt I’ll start in the ED – those positions go fast and tend to be limited in my geographic area. It’s nothing like the show, so don’t get your hopes up, but for those people whose personalities like lots of action with some downtime – it’s all you, baby.



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