Working in the emergency department has been my lifelong dream ever since I started walking the path of nursing. I’ve been to several EDs as a watcher because of my father who’s always sick almost every month since I was 9 years old.
I’ve seen the heroic acts of doctors, nurses, cleaners, radtechs and personnel staff. It may not sound right but whenever we go to ED, there’s this certain level of anxiety that excites me.
I never intended to be a nurse but it was the only choice I had then. So, after years of hard work, washing blood-blemished uniforms, dealing with stress because of exams and bringing big piles of books to school that I rarely opened. I ended up becoming a Registered Nurse.
I didn’t start in ED, I became a medical-surgical nurse for almost eight months before I got permission to do a departmental transfer.
As soon as I got the, “Congratulations! You’ll start next Monday” I was ecstatic. I started daydreaming, imagining myself to be the nurse that saves the day. I couldn’t help but think about the action, keeping up with the coffee and pumping that adrenaline that keeps you working. It was mind-blowing!
I woke up early, ate my breakfast, put on my make-up and went to work early. As I entered the ED, the smell of cleanliness, filth, dry blood and medication welcomed me. Then as I started on that very same day, as I became one of the staff, my mind went blank and all of the excitement that I had in my heart vanished.
Then I began to understand, emergency nursing is nothing like what I had in mind. It’s chaos with compassion.
My early years as an ED nurse could be summed up with a couple of words/tasks – brisk walking, mental health, attitude, bullying, working under pressure, ignorance, and numbness.
Brisk Walking – Never run or you’ll make everyone panic. Regardless if it’s busy or not, always try your best to finish what you’re doing because you never know what will happen.
Mental Health – Rest if you must, but never quit. Life is all about adversities. Work-life balance is not that achievable in this career path. Drink your coffee on your work days, talk with friends, sleep on your day-off and strengthen your mind whenever you get the chance.
Attitude – One thing is for sure, as soon as you start working in ED or in any other place that’s pressure-driven, your attitude will change. I’ll be 100% honest, it will not change you for the better but it will teach you how to survive life’s greatest predicaments. You will understand how non-stop perseverance works, that time dictates your patience and that there’s more to you. As bad as it sounds, it will bring out the good and the worst in you.
Up until such time that you’ll start asking yourself, “what happened to me?” or “when did I become like this?” I’m not sure about the others but that’s what happened to me.
Bullying – Others are there to help, but not all. Some are just tired of how broken the system is. And instead of helping you out, they burden you with their disappointments and frustration. They’ll make you feel that you can’t do it, you’re not for ED and you don’t deserve to wear the ED badge — but just like what I said, rest if you must but never quit.
Not everyone does it just because they want to. There are those who’ll push you to your limit, and help you to grow by teaching you their experiences and share the lessons they learned by failing.
Working under pressure – Sounds easy not unless someone’s life depends on it, like calculating drugs. Man I’m telling you it’s a lifelong challenge that I’m still working on to perfect.
Ignorance and Numbness – Life is unfair. It’s an inevitable fact that we can’t do anything about. There are circumstances in our life that we can’t change, what more for other people, or let’s say our patients. There’s an irrefutable fact that I’ve learned to understand for five years of working as an ED nurse, I can’t help everyone – especially with the long wait and financial assistance.
Even if I give my life, it will never be enough. I can lend someone money to buy medications but what about the next patient? We can’t, because as human beings, we’re limited beyond our capabilities. So instead, we just move on to the next patient as if nothing happened. Being numb to the pain that we don’t have control over troubling situations is the only choice we have.
The patients who come to ED are not just physically sick, they’re emotionally, spiritually, financially and mentally unwell too. So when nurses receive them, they’re wholly broken. Imagine receiving 20-50 in a day. But I’m not whining or anything, I know that it’s our job and we chose this ourselves.
Times have changed as well, people are getting sicker, accidents are rampant and with the pandemic, the communities are mentally exhausted. The world needs more nurses, but with how things are going I don’t think everybody wants to be an RN anymore.
To be honest, despite all the challenges, I fell in love with Emergency Nursing. I don’t see myself working in any other department, but I’m a thread away to shifting careers.
Unlike before, emergency nursing is now becoming the lesser choice for nurses. Everybody leaves, they choose a career where they can breath every once and a while. They choose to be employed in corporate world or anywhere that’s outside the hospital where they feel valued.
If this continues, what will happen to the young ones who were like me five years ago?
Experience is important when you’re working as a nurse, whether in ED or anywhere. At the end of the day, it’s always the lessons that you learned along the way that you pass on to the next generations.