In this article, we're going to go over some tips for new emergency room (ER) nurses.
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So, what are some tips for new ER nurses? Our tips below are going to center around a couple of things.
- Making sure you’re adequately prepared for your new position.
- Making sure you’re continually learning and growing as an emergency room nurse.
- Making sure to check your biases.
- Making sure to be a team player.
- Making sure you’re taking care of yourself to prevent nurse burnout.
Alright, let's dive a little deeper.
Tips for New ER Nurses
1. Make Sure You Have a Good Preceptor
In most of our top tips for new nurses, there are two constants in all of them.
One is making sure you have a good preceptor, and the other is making sure you find a good mentor (more on that later).
From my experience, the value of a good preceptor is almost always understated.
Think about it.
If you're new to an area or department, you don't know what to expect.
How are the doctors? How are the other nurses?
What are the unwritten rules for the unit (so you can avoid making unnecessary enemies)?
A good preceptor goes beyond learning what the ER is like, but it also plays into fitting into that unit culture.
This is easier said than done, and most time you can't control who your preceptor is.
There are a couple things you can do.
If you find that you're not connecting with your preceptor (or you just have a bad one) have a serious conversation with your manager.
Make sure you have real facts about why things aren't clicking and how a new preceptor for you can benefit the unit.
2. Accept that You're Going into a Jack of all Trades Specialty
Alright so in your area there's probably some well know trauma ERs or a Children ERs.
There might be even a bone and joint ER around. Besides those exceptions, many of the ERs around will be ERs that take all patients.
From the young kids to the elderly, you're going to have to get accustomed to dealing with different age groups not to mention different patient conditions.
What this means is you will need to stay up to date with current medical guidelines for a wide range of emergency illnesses.
You could be treating a bleeder one day, and a patient with Schizophrenia the next day.
3. Prioritization is Just as Important for Emergency Nurses as it is for Med Surg Nurses
You're going to see this all the time.
A patient can't get into their primary care providers' office for something, so they decide to just come into the ER.
You're going to see people come in for minor cuts or headaches.
You're going to see patients come in just drug-seeking.
In the midst of that, you're going to see stroke patients and cardiac patients come in as well.
As an ER nurse/triage nurse, you're going to have to learn to prioritize patients based on their status.
What this means is learning how to prioritize patients.
Your ER most likely has the more experienced nurses triaging but make sure you're asking questions so you can understand why some patients are prioritized over others.
4. You’re NOT Dumb, but You’re Going to Feel Like it
It’s going to take you a bit to acclimate to emergency nursing.
Depending on what your previous area was, you could quickly feel overwhelmed.
This feeling of being dumb will be magnified in your first code blue.
What this means is you need to learn not to be too hard on yourself in situations like that.
Instead, learn to ask questions and take notes if need be.
5. Watch Out for Your Judgmental Tone and Face
You're going to see a lot of injuries come through the ER, and many of them are preventable.
For example, not wearing seatbelts or helmets. You might even get incarcerated patients.
People are going to make the choices they're going to make.
Your job is to treat those people regardless of what their consequences are.
What this means is you have to come into work each day and check your personal biases at the door. It's easier said than done. But it's a must as an ER nurse.
6. Grow Some Thick Skin
It's unfortunate, but verbal abuse and physical abuse to nurses is rampant, and it's a problem in the ER (source).
Whether it's from other nurses, doctors, or patients, it happens. On the one hand, it's a high-stress environment.
On the other, the type of patients you get lends itself to this (patients who are sick, scared, and/or hurting) I haven't even mentioned the family members.
What this means is you need to familiarize yourself with your workplace policy for things like this.
Just as psychiatric nurses need to master the art of therapeutic communication so to must ER nurses.
7. Figure Out What Your Stress Outlet is
As I've mentioned above, stress is a problem in the ER. Because of the environment, nurse burnout is very prevalent.
What this means is you need to figure out how you're going to de-stress after work. Nursing self-care is essential.
Maybe you need to take out a hobby. Go on more vacations, or just not pick up so many shifts.
Spend some time figuring out what your stress outlet is.
8. Get Comfortable Dealing with Death
Death can be a tricky subject and very hard for even the most seasoned ER nurse. Death is just part of the ER.
You could do everything right, and it still ends up the same.
What this means is coming to grips with it and figuring out how you best deal with it.
Something else to think about is to see what resources your facility has to help their staff deal with such difficulties.
9. Keep Patients and Family Members Updated When Possible
Have you been to the ER as a patient, a family member, or a friend? I have and do you know one of the most frustrating things about being in any of those positions.
Not knowing what the heck is going on.
It's a frustrating feeling it's bad enough that you're thinking the worst, but to add not knowing on top of it makes the whole thing unbearable.
For example, even if the lab is taking longer than usual just going into your patient pod or holding area and talking to your patient and their family member after they've been sitting around for an hour can make all the difference.
It doesn’t have to be something special.
Here’s an example “hey just to let you know we haven't forgotten about you, we're just waiting on the lab.”
That one statement can do a lot to ease the anxiety.
I know you're going to be busy, and of course, you’re going to have EMSA patients show up.
But it is important to add that adding in little gestures like that can go a long way to improving the patient experience and reducing anxiety.
10. Don’t be in such a Rush that you Skip Safety
The ER can get hectic. We all know that. But what you don’t want to do is start sacrificing safety.
An example would be being in such a rush that you don’t raise up the bed rails when you’re done.
Or not picking up your sharps or other biohazards after a procedure.
In those example scenarios, it creates a safety issue for yourself, your co-workers, and the patient.
What this means is you need to figure out what your rhythm is and/or slow things down a bit.
Because if a patient falls or someone gets stuck by a dirty needle, it will create more paperwork which will slow you down more than if you had taken the time to be proactive in the first place.
11. Make Sure You Have the Right Gear
As an ER nurse, you need to make sure you have all the right gear. Some things to keep in mind are…
- A good stethoscope is a must.
- A good pair of trauma shears for cutting of patient clothes, bandages, etc.
- Don't forget compression socks and a good pair of comfortable nursing shoes. You're going to be on your feet a lot, and there's a lot of benefits to wearing compression socks and having good-fitting shoes.
Resources for New ER Nurses
- What is ER Nursing?
- Pros & Cons of ER Nursing
- How to Become an ER Nurse
- ER vs OR Nursing
- Emergency Nurses Association
Hopefully, you found this helpful for the start of your journey as a new ER nurse. If you have any thoughts, let us know in the comments below.
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