A Day in the Life of an ER Nurse (Part 1): Don’t say the ‘Q’ word

This is part 1 of a three part series detailing a typical day for an ER department nurse. Scattered throughout the story are a few never before published haiku relating to the author’s day. For those interested in working in a small town ER, the author highly recommends it, but says  to realize, this could be your typical day.

Studies show that more people die on Monday than on any other day of the week. When alternate work schedules are factored in, the studies show that it is the first day back to work after having some days off when people are most likely to die. Wednesdays are my Mondays, and it’s no wonder that more people die on this day. Day one of dealing with meth heads, alcoholics, narcotic seekers, people with psychosocial dystrophy, and the typical scrollers is enough to give me a little chest pain.

Back to work today.
How can I get out of it?
Guess I have to die.

I was pleasantly surprised by how mellow the ER was on arrival, since the parking lot and waiting room were both packed. I was assigned to be the triage nurse, which is always a nice break from the action. Sure, you have to see everyone that comes in the door, but only briefly, and you don’t have the headaches associated with being in charge. I started into my morning routine, preparing the triage room the way I like it. For being such a slob at home, I really am a Type A person at work.

There is my way of setting up a room, and then there is the wrong way.

If I need something right away, I don’t want to be looking around for it, running to a different room, or trying to untangle the monitor wires that have been braided into the blood pressure tubing and the pulse oximeter wire.

Learn string theory.
No, not quantum mechanics.
Strings always form knots.

I was just about ready when a STAT TRIAGE is called. First patient of the day was having chest pain. Brought him straight back into an empty room, did the EKG, turned on the O2, started a large bore IV while drawing a rainbow of lab tubes and notified the ER doc. The beautiful thing about bringing people straight back is that you aren’t expected to chart if there are more patients waiting to be triaged and you get to hand off to the nurse taking care of the room.

Gave a quick report and headed back to fill my drawers with vomit bags and clean catch mid-stream urine kits.

Restock vomit bags!
You know everybody pukes.
Only one mop here.

I should have known it was too good to be true, because an hour into the shift, an EMT student showed up saying she had been assigned to me for the day. The triage room is too small for a student, and they want to see the cool stuff anyway, so I had to give up my triage assignment and take some rooms.

“She wanted to see something, and I wanted to have some material to write about, so I went so far as to use the ‘Q word.’ Yes, you read that right. I actually said, “It sure is QUIET today.”

Welcome to the curse of the EMT students. Whenever there is someone in the ER who actually wants to see something interesting, nobody will come in at all. It’s like they take down the “Free Percocet” sign on their way in. She wanted to see something, and I wanted to have some material to write about, so I went so far as to use the “Q word.”

Yes, you read that right. I actually said, “It sure is QUIET today.”

You don’t know what real fear is until you use the Q word in a fully staffed ER. I survived the dirty looks, arm punches, and curses, then got busy giving the student a quick tour of the ER, let her poke my finger to check my blood sugar, and had her check my vital signs, (yes, I should reduce the stress in my life, exercise more, and stop eating so much fast food.)

Not superstitious.
It’s a documented fact.
Never say “Quiet.”

Check back Wednesday as the “quiet” finds some noise in part 2 of ” A Day in the Life of an ER Nurse.” 


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