ER Nursing Gains Recognition as Demand Grows
By: Kim Morgan
Source: Houston Chronicle
Fact or fiction, emergency room nurses are having their moment in the spotlight as people tune in to watch the drama of their jobs unfold on television.
One thing is for certain, emergency nursing is different than any other kind.
“We treat all different age groups, from neonates to geriatrics,” said Larry Hamm, president of the Houston chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association.
“And we have to know all body systems and illnesses, from a heart attack to a stubbed toe.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of registered nurses in May 2010 was $64,690. Emergency room RNs had an average salary of $68,610.
Overall employment of registered nurses is expected to increase by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.
Nurses are in demand; emergency room nurses even more so.
“The average age of nurses is rising, and as a result, nurses are retiring or finding other health-care opportunities away from the bedside,” said Michelle Henderson, RN, director of emergency services at Tomball Regional Medical Center.
“Emergency nursing is a specialty area that requires nurses with skills in customer service, critical thinking, time management and technical skills.”
Henderson said it’s an exciting specialty, because no two days, patients or shifts are ever the same.
Best suited for this career are people who can tolerate long work shifts, usually 12 hours at a time; and shift work that includes nights, weekends and holidays.
Hamm said ER nurses must be energetic in order to keep up with the fast pace; analytical in order to absorb what’s going on and anticipate changes; organized in order to effectively multi-task; and composed in order to work effectively with physicians, patients and families.
If this sounds like you, here’s how to get started.
Henderson said there are multiple educational paths for nurses, ranging from associate degrees to master’s degrees. Additional training specific to emergency departments includes basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric emergencies and trauma.
The way to get this additional training varies. Some hospitals provide internships, while others offer bridge programs to train nurses who want to switch from one specialty to another.
Hamm said one should earn an RN degree, then work a year or so in the nursing industry before transitioning to emergency medicine.
Once in the emergency department, Hamm said, a preceptor/mentor will “hold your hand until you are comfortable functioning as an ER nurse, and are familiar with that hospital’s policies and procedures.”
Hamm knows of what he speaks.
He worked in banking for several years until the industry collapsed, and jobs were hard to come by.
But he noticed many job postings for nurses, so he went back to school for a nursing degree. Hamm’s first nursing job was in intensive care.
“Working in the ER is a totally different mind set,” said Hamm, who works in the ER at St. Luke’s in the Texas Medical Center. “You concentrate on saving life and limb before sending patients somewhere else for continued care.”
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