Being Calm Amidst Chaos: Tips on How to Be an Expert Emergency Nurse

J. Granaph

Staff Nurse, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, India

There are days when you find that everything is in a crisis mode for you – work deadlines nearing and pressures mounting! Days when you rush to reach work but, en-route, the transport breaks down. And, when you reach breathless and run in, you bang your head on the door. Despite how efficient you are, there are days when you fail to balance work and life.

But, for we emergency medicine warriors, that is our everyday norm. The new normal and the old normal are just the same. We are the proverbial cats, who, whichever way they are thrown up, land squarely on four feet, and are ready for action!

Staying calm and focused amidst chaos, when everything is swirling between life and death, is indeed the key to being a successful nurse, and providing quality care in the ED.

Here are some tips that our emergency nurses follow during our daily crisis situations to tackle and balance work efficiently:

1) Prioritize, Focus, and Make time

During an emergency, running around doing multiple things without prioritizing shall make things look clumsy and chaotic. Hence, one must stick to the triaging method in the ED; it simplifies the planning of care for the patient, it helps to prioritize- focus on the immediately life-threatening situation first and then attending to the less threatening ones. That helps us to efficiently schedule our time & work as our responsibility involves not only carrying out the medical orders for the patients but also providing food and beverages, seek and get specialist consults on them, get the necessary imaging done and finally, once they are all sorted out, to move them safely to the ward or critical care units. So, it is vital to prioritize, focus and work in a set and systematic manner, in order to complete your responsibilities within your hours of work so that you can step out when the shift is done and get home, almost on time! Remember, we talked about aiming for work-life balance!

2) Make a list, and check it twice!

I am a big list maker!! This physical act of making an activity plan helps us to review our targets for patient care and complete the pending orders for a patient on time, without delay. As the turnover of patients is quite high in the ED, avoid jumbling orders amongst patients. It’s smart to make the do-list and double-check it!

3) Practice makes a nurse perfect

As an ED nurse, we must update our knowledge and gauge our skills-set all the time. Hence, we must conduct regular mock drills, have weekly academic teaching and learning sessions to encourage team building dynamics and develop practical skills for perfecting commonly performed procedures in the ED.

4) Following protocols always protects

When the nurse and doctors stick to the protocols set in the ED, which are based on international and national guidelines, we provide the right treatment at the right time to the right patient. And this ensures that we never harm our patients, as our motto is ‘Primum nonnocere- First do no harm!”

Our ED always functions stringently by protocols, keeping our patients as our main priority; we deliver care to them calmly, systematically, and methodically, keeping confusion and chaos at bay.

I would like to conclude by stating:

An emergency nurse specializes in rapid assessment and treatment as, at the ED, every second counts, particularly during the initial phase of acute illness or trauma. Emergency nurses must juggle diverse tasks with professionalism, and efficiency and above all, render tender, loving care. In the emergency room, no two days shall ever be the same. It may definitely look definitely chaotic from the outside, but it’s ‘control in chaos’; once you have mastered the art of prioritizing and teamwork, it is a cakewalk.

Our calm attitude seems to gravitate to people who come to us and are around us. It is because we, as emergency nurses, always stay calm, focused on swift and safe actions. We are ever ready to do any task assigned to us, in our own crazy style. But at the end of the day, nobody can handle unusual situations the way we do it, with finesse and panache.

“I’m not crazy ‘coz am an ER nurse, I’m crazy cause I like working in the ER”