For many people around the world, the holiday season often corresponds with a slower pace at work and more time spent with loved ones. However, for emergency nurses, providing critical care to patients with everything from mild colds to extreme injuries is an around-the-clock job 365 days of the year. We recently spoke with Sandeep Kaur, RN, who works in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in Bronx, N.Y., which had the third-most emergency department visits in the country in 2017, about the important role of emergency nurses during the holidays.
Nursing Notes (NN): What inspired you to pursue a career as an emergency nurse?
Sandeep Kaur: I worked as a nurse in non-emergency settings for three years and although I always loved it, it was the fast pace and unpredictability of the emergency room (ER) that always attracted me to work there. I fell in love with the adrenaline rush.
NN: As an emergency nurse, what are your typical day-to-day responsibilities?
Sandeep: The responsibilities of an emergency nurse cover a lot of ground. In the fast-paced setting of the ER, responsibilities must be executed quickly, consistently, and efficiently. My day typically starts by taking assignments and rapidly assessing patients received from the previous shift. Then, I begin getting rooms ready for new patients with all the necessary supplies and equipment that I will need to care for a patient suffering from anything from a common cold to a life-threatening emergency.
NN: What are some of the most common reasons that patients visit the emergency department during the holiday season?
Sandeep: From my experience, common reasons include slip-and-falls due to snow and rain, overindulgence of food or alcohol and injuries related to motor vehicle collisions. Since the holiday season is also the flu season, we have a constant influx of people with respiratory illnesses.
NN: How does the holiday season impact your schedule/responsibilities as an emergency nurse?
Sandeep: As much as I would love to be home with my family during the holiday season, it is not possible all the time. Luckily, my hospital has a self-scheduling system that gives us flexibility while also keeping our very busy department’s needs in mind. For example, if I work on New Year’s Day, then I can be home for Christmas, or vice versa.
While there is often a much-needed lull in activity on any given holiday, the emergency room is typically very crowded throughout the holiday season. Sometimes this means working with more or fewer resources than normal, but that never stops us from delivering the very best care to our patients.
NN: What are the biggest challenges/rewards of this nursing specialty?
Sandeep: The biggest reward is the positive impact I can make in patients’ lives on a day-to-day basis. It’s also very rewarding to play a part in helping someone who is in a life-threatening situation. It feels good to know that when someone is having their worst day ever, they are going to come to us for help, and we have what it takes to help them.
That being said, there are many challenges to the job. Working under stressful and life-changing situations while staying calm is something that is mastered over time.
NN: What advice would you give to a nursing student considering a career as an emergency nurse?
Sandeep: Like many professions, preparation is key for success in the emergency department. Also, the learning never stops, so ask tons of questions. I have worked in the emergency department for 11 years, and I still feel like there is a lot to learn every single day.
While working as an emergency nurse requires top-notch critical thinking and skills, it also requires patience, the ability to work under high stress, attention to detail, and superior communication and organizational skills, as well as empathy and a compassionate heart.
For more information on the role of emergency nurses, visit DiscoverNursing.com. Additionally, watch our "Charm" nursing commercial below highlighting emergency nurses and the critical difference they make in the lives of their patients each day.