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Clinical Systems Leadership

A Day in the Life of an ER Nurse

The emergency room setting provides for an exciting and fast-paced work environment that those entering the nursing profession are sure to find demanding. If you’re seeking a career that will allow you to utilize the knowledge and skills you’ve developed during the course of a nursing program, learn from a staff of educated and experienced practicing nurses and physicians, and work with a wide variety of patients on a daily basis, then working in the ER might be just the challenging and rewarding career opportunity you’ve been looking for. Before you make a decision, though, you need to understand exactly what you’re getting into; here are just a few of the tasks that ER nurses will be called upon to perform during an average work day.

Physicians are responsible for diagnosing patients, but as an ER nurse it will be your responsibility to gather pertinent information from the patient and accompany family members or friends, and/or medical personnel (such as EMTs) that bring the patient into the ER. From there you will have to make rapid assessments of the condition of your patients (both physical and mental), the immediacy of their medical needs, and whether or not to administer emergency care (and what treatment to provide). The ability to make quick evaluations can save the lives of patients, so you cannot be afraid to rely on your knowledge and skills in this area.

Sample Collection/Venipuncture
Nurses in the ER setting are responsible for performing preparatory tasks that provide physicians with the information they need to quickly diagnose and treat patients. Along these lines, emergency room nurses will be called upon frequently to collect samples like blood and other fluids, as well as administer fluids and medication (intravenously in some cases). Engaging in venipuncture is an important part of the average ER nurse’s daily routine.

Administering Medication
Physicians usually leave the task of administering medication to the nurses on staff, even though nurses cannot prescribe medication. It is your duty to ensure safety in this process, however, by checking that you have the right patient, the right medication, the right dosage, the right time, and the right route (known as the rights of safe medication administration). You might also add right documentation to your mental checklist since you’ll need to check the chart and patient identification as well.

Perhaps the most important part of any nurse’s daily routine is documentation. Without proper documentation, mistakes are almost certain to happen. If you fail to note that a doctor informed you of a change in medication, for example, the nurse on rotation after you may administer the wrong medication. Or if you write the wrong dosage, the patient could be over or under-medicated. These are the reasons why it is imperative that ER nurses pay close attention to documentation.

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