High-Octane Nursing: Try Emergency Nursing

High-Octane Nursing: Try Emergency Nursing

Stephen Borkowski | Monster Staff Writer

The Know-How

Responding to life-or-death scenarios means less direct supervision. “We have a high level of autonomy, and the doctors expect us to function on a lot of standing orders and not wait for them,” Howat explains.

This independence comes only after extensive advanced training. “We’re often doing extra education, extra certification,” Campbell says.

A career in the ER requires a lifelong commitment to learning. “We like a lot of variety, we like a lot of stimulation, we like to know a lot about a lot of things,” Howat says. “If you don’t like to learn, this is probably not the best place for you.”

Demanding and Rewarding

Campbell works two 24-hour shifts per week, and 12-hour days are common in the ER. Howat, who can work up to 10 hours without a break, says the emotional demands are just as great. “When those really serious things come in, the things other people don’t have to look at, that gets to us,” she says.

Campbell says that even when she knows she’s done her best to save a life, she still goes home worrying about a patient’s survival. But the job has rewarding moments, too. “Four months later, we’ve had people walk into our heliplex, and they are now walking, talking, breathing,” she says. “They come to give me a hug, because I’m the person who participated in saving their life.”

Got What It Takes?

Flight nursing, emergency room nursing and other similar positions are highly coveted. If you want such a job, you’ll need to stand out and be experienced. Howat’s hospital looks for nurses who already have at least two years of ER or critical-care experience. You’ll need at least five years of experience in an ER or ICU to get airborne.

Applicants for emergency room positions should have basic CPR training in addition to advanced life-support training and pediatric advanced life-support (PALS) training. Campbell says applicants for flight nursing positions need “an alphabet soup” of certifications, including not only CPR and PALS, but also ACLS (advanced cardiac life support), PHTLS (prehospital trauma life support), NRP (neonatal resuscitation program), TNCC (trauma nursing course certified) or TNS (trauma nurse specialist).

But for those who choose this career, it’s all worth it. “Just knowing you made a difference and that you made someone’s pain go away or someone’s fear lessen — those things keep me coming back,” Howat says.

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