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High-Octane Nursing

High-Octane Nursing

Stephen Borkowski / Monster Staff Writer

If you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking a lifetime of adventure, look no further than emergency nursing, where you could work to save lives in high-pressure situations. Here’s a look at some of the aspects that set this niche apart.

The Thrill

According to Carol Howat, RN, BSN, a nurse in the emergency room of Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois, for more than a decade, it’s adrenaline that keeps her alert to respond to the volume and variety of patients moving through the ER.

“You hear the overhead page ‘trauma alert, three minutes,’ and in those three minutes your heart starts beating faster,” says Howat, a certified emergency nurse (CEN). “You don’t get nervous, but your adrenaline starts pumping.”

High overhead, Teri Campbell’s blood is flowing as she leaps into action. Campbell, RN, BSN, CEN, is the chief flight nurse for Air Angels, a critical-care transportation provider based in West Chicago, Illinois. She and her teammates, one paramedic and one pilot, respond to emergencies in a Bell 222 EMS helicopter. “We’re adrenaline junkies,” she says. “We love the excitement of not knowing what’s coming around the corner.”

Ready for Anything

Having a wide range of skills at the ready is a must for emergency nurses, since they’re called upon to respond to a range of medical emergencies. “We have any type of bizarre thing you can think of,” Howat says. “Chances are in your career in the ER, you will see those rare things that you only see in textbooks.” Howat has encountered parking lot births, foreign objects lodged in every place they shouldn’t be, motorcycle parts stuck in legs and mental cases who truly thought they were on a bus to Sesame Street.

Whether landing in a cornfield or at an industrial complex, Campbell says a flight nurse must know how to adapt. Her team unexpectedly discovered injured children as the wreckage of a car accident was being dismantled. “All of a sudden, our whole scene has changed,” she says. “We have to instantly change our plan, change our equipment, change our medication.”

Next: The Know-How >>

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