Warning: Hazards of Being an E.R. Nurse

Emergency nursing is a specialized field of the nursing profession. In this field, nurses are equipped and trained to deal with patients in critical phase of their illness and injury. Emergency room nurses are capable of treating patients in this phase without any or complete diagnosis.

Emergency room nurses are used to fast paced environment. Since the emergency department of a hospital, is usually overcrowded emergency room nurses can be seen multitasking to balance and prioritize patients and their time. How dangerous is it to be working in a hospital?

With increasing reports of emergency department violence, emergency nurses are placed among police officers and other peace officers. The Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 4.000 health care professionals to experience verbal and physical assault while working in the ER (2005).

Different steps are being undertaken to address the escalating umber of violence experienced by emergency room staff. Legislations in increasing the penalty for perpetrators are awaiting decision from the Assembly. Various programs and trainings to resolve violence are commencing in hospitals and other health care institutions.

So what else is dangerous about being an emergency nurse?

According to the International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation as released by the International Labour Organization, there are seven main dangers emergency nurses can be exposed to.

  1. Emergency room nurses, as part of their responsibilities; cleans, disinfects and sterilize medical equipment. They may be exposed to agents that may damage the skin, mucous membranes and respiratory system.
  2. Emergency room nurses can also be exposed to anesthetic gases, drugs and radiation.
  3. Emergency room nurses may be injured by shard objects like needles, blades and other similar objects.
  4. They may contact with hot surfaces, faulty electrical equipment and may cause skin burns.
  5. Sick patients in the emergency room present a risk of infection from body fluids.
  6. Emergency room nurses may suffer from musculoskeletal problems and back pains due to handling heavy patients. Continuous work while standing and walking may cause fatigue and leg problems.
  7. Emergency room nurses also may suffer from stress and burnout caused by shift and night work and by other psychological and organization factors.

The Emergency Nurses Association recognizes the increasing number of emergency nurses experiencing stress. The emergency care environment can be very stressful and physically and emotionally traumatic for the health care workers and nurses.

ENA recognizes the following contributing factors in the increasing stress levels of emergency room nurses.

  1. Critical incidents that can cause strong emotion and may interfere with the ability to perform the duties. Incidents like mass casualties, disasters, unexpected death of a child or co-worker can be attributing factors.
  2. Long term demands can also be a stressor. Long work hours, job insecurity, poor communication and an increased potential for a workplace violence fall under this factor.

ENA sees that unresolved issue of stress can result into absenteeism, sleep disorders, burn out, emotional difficulties and health problems.

So how can these repercussions be avoided?

International Labor Organization (ILO) provided several pointers to keep the emergency department safe for the emergency room health workers. Nurses should comply with all safety instructions and conduct periodic inspection of electrical medical equipment. Keeping all passages clearly visible and uncluttered is also another tip. Following appropriate procedures in infection control and handling and disposing sharp objects is necessary.

To resolve the stress emergency nurses are experiencing, ENA supports the development and utilization of critical incident stress management. ENA also supports the use of personal stress management strategies like relaxation, meditation, exercise, group therapy, guided imagery, massage or humor therapy.

ENA also recognizes the impact of workplace violence and the need for a program which would include education, prevention, appropriate security measures, identification of incidents, reporting and protocols.

Emergency nurses have a very rewarding job and at the same a dangerous one. These are all the sacrifices they have to put up the serve the people.

Posted by Jennifer | in ER Nurse | 14 Comments »

14 Comments on “Warning: Hazards of Being an E.R. Nurse”

  1. omigie precious Says:

    this is my heart and greatest desire,travelling as a nurse and helping the sick or injured

  2. hernando ramirez Says:

    it is very scaruyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  3. Carolee Says:

    I am an ER nurse- I agree with all of these comments but don’t believe they are the reason ER nurses burn out. I am personally starting to encounter the burnout..but I find that it is due largely to the fact that the nursing profession is changing- and not in a good way. We are becoming over regulated robots who are not allowed to question anything and taught that “box checking” is our main function. Compassion and critical thinking are frowned upon..its so disappointing. I have spent a large amount of time overseas working as an ER nurse in third world countries…I was able to function as a nurse and I loved it. It is to bad that because of government regulation I am now ready to give up my profession.

  4. Sherry Says:

    Although I am still a high school student I find it very interesting to work in the ER. If i can handle blood, guts,death, and many other things that can go wrong I believe that working in the ER seems fun. Yes there are grueling hours and stressful holidays but its okay for me. I watch untold stories of the ER and being able to get a tree branch or a golf club out of somebody’s head is very interesting, I hope that one day I will be able to save lives like people working in the ER do everyday, yea sure i might have to tell some families that their live one is dead but think of the satisfaction of saving multiple lives a day!

  5. Burned out also Says:

    i second this. i am RN also considering giving up the profession. I totaly relate to what your syaing & my specialty is NOT Emergency Room.

  6. Lacey Says:

    I love being a nurse- I have always worked in critical care and ER. I love both worlds. In the emergency department you never know what will come through the door next and I love that. I also love MICU because I am able to see trends, make suggestions to MD’s regarding the patients values and watch them improve. It truly is the best of both worlds.
    All nurses get burned out especially in today’s society of patients abusing the health care system, chronically coming to the hospital, then being given every resource and still not caring for themselves. We cannot force people to care about themselves and I believe that is what burns me out quickest. There are times in the ED that I have seen the same patient 3 times in my 12 hour shift- it’s painful!
    Last night I was assaulted by a patient. Kicked three times in the chest. How is this acceptable? When I was 6 months pregnant I was kicked in the back by a patient who had abused drugs. The not knowing what will come through the door next is both my favorite and least favorite all at the same time.
    As the economy continues to collapse and encourage people to continue to not work, live off welfare, etc we will only see increases in our ED psych population. A huge problem at my hospital now. We line them in the halls- they require more of my time than my vented patient who is on the edge of life and death.
    I am burned out- I am tired of being physically and verbally abused every time I go to work!

  7. Cindy W. Says:

    I AM an ER nurse. Yes, on a more than regular basis we come into contact with dangerous and questionable safety situations. But, that I do not think it is the cause for burnout. The focus today is customer satisfaction. Little does the public know that this may be a desire but it may not be in your best interest. Do you want the fluff and tuck? or would you rather have a loved one’s life saved? The pressure is immense on the ED nurse..you have to please and treat all at one time. Enough..if you want good experienced nurses there who know what to do in a crisis then you may have to pick..time is not on your side. Waste a second on the warm blanket or the call to the ED doc that something isn’t right (based on your gut)! The public, I am afraid will soon have to pick between an inexperienced ER stand in or a real ER nurse.. we are dropping like flies from burn out and all the regulations..this is not a matter of customer service, nor should it be..it is about saving a life.which way would you have it? To feel good for a moment or be alive?? Which is more important?

  8. Cindy W. Says:

    A prime example of innocense and what you see on TV. I am sorry to say but this is not the real world! Yes you may save lives and see some people die but it is not the real world. You WILL be confronted with “yes you may have saved a life and stopped some suffering but you forgot to chart this and that to cover your ass get it right next time!! ” yes this is the real world CYA and customer satisfaction..no matter how much good you may think you do it may never be quite enough!

  9. Kellie Says:

    My comment to Sherry the high school student who thinks it looks “fun” to work as an ER nurse. You need a reality check. My first patient the other day asked if i can b–w him, I have been spit on, had my life threatened, my kid’s life threatened, seen children die, children abused, severely at the hands of their own parents, women beaten beyond recognition by their spouse, people burned to death & it goes on & on & on. Does that seem like fun to you? Challenging yes & at times rewarding but not fun. Those ER TV shows do not show you everything like triage where people are waiting for hours to come & they yell & swear & threaten you. They do not show you managing 6 & 8 bed assignments while dealing with rude families etc. Those “reality” shows are not reality & 95% of what you deal with is not the “glamorous” stuff it is the belly pains, chest pains, drug addicts & alcoholics.

  10. Sheryl Robertson Says:

    At our hospital the RN’s are b-w experts. We always wipe twice. Our patients prefer our b-w technique. Management insists we not only wipe but kiss it too its all about market share. Many turds are on the run here but we gratefully and thankfully catch them all. Its what our college degrees are all about. On occasion the staff has had a fa–ting contest we prefer goat meat as a gassing agent, though those that are lactose intolerant usually win.

  11. Melissa Says:

    I sincerely hope you were just having a bad day. This is someone who wants to go into the profession. The old “nurses eat their young” mentality is absolutely unacceptable. There are ways to provide information for young, hopeful pre-nurses than spitting on their dreams. Please consider rephrasing your responses or not commenting to students in the future, so that there are future nurses to replace you when you retire. And, for the record, we have LOTS of fun in my emergency department.

  12. Derek Says:

    Addressing the aforementioned posts, the statement, “all nurses burn out” is a fallacy and a harmful one at that. You don’t get to make that declaration. With that said, burnout is a well known phenomenon. In my own experience, if I ever were to “burnout”, it will have been because of coworkers, not patients. In my experience, it is the lazy coworkers, the coworkers lacking integrity, and the coworkers who engage in clique behavior that bothers me. I view those coworkers to be anything but professional and I expect to work with professionals. I didn’t get into ER nursing for the attention or praise. I believe that when you adequately study yourself, know yourself, and follow your heart, you arrive at precisely where you are supposed to be. With that said, it isn’t the patient that threatens my job satisfaction, it is the coworker.

  13. Lisa Christiansen Says:

    As a nurse for a year in a busy cardiac telemetry unit, my eyes as a new nurse are wide open. We are somewhat prepared for the insanity that has become nursing, but I have to say, having no previous comparison, that as bad as short staffing and not enough beds can be, the calling is still there. My best reward is when a patient acknowledges excellent care despite the staff shortage, long wait times for beds, etc. Watching a patient go from unstable to stable and going home is the absolute best! Learning from more experienced nurses who have the patience and time to deal with new nurses, is also the absolute best. The important thing is to remember why you wanted to do this in the first place….and stand up for your patients and your team when there are disparities in the way care is delivered in the organization.

  14. Kathy S Bartz Says:

    Melissa is there something wrong with the truth and the cold and hard facts about the job. Kelly didn’t say it’s all gloom and doom but every single thing she said was fact! And that little girl in high school maybe would appreciate knowing those things and knows in her heart of hearts she couldn’t handle all of that abuse on a daily basis. Leave it between them. Nobody put a quarter in you!

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