Emergency nursing is a challenging and unique profession—so distinctive that the American Nurses Association recently recognized it as a specialty practice. Emergency nursing brings all of a nurse’s training and experience to bear in caring for patients on days many describe as the worst day of their lives. These patients never “planned” to visit the emergency department (ED) on their way to work or to pick up their children, or on a day they’d planned for fun and friends.
Whether emergency nurses are dealing with traumas or infectious disease, psychiatric illnesses or chronic conditions, injuries or acute life-threatening conditions, they care for all who present themselves. They do this day in and day out, not knowing who or what will come through the door. They do it so they can bring some light into this traumatic and frightening time.
To be an emergency nurse, you need to possess not just exceptional skills but a high level of patience and empathy. An ED is a microcosm of the community it serves. A community’s ills and challenges manifest in its ED. As funding for community-based services dwindles, more of the population that communities serve are seeking help in EDs.
Once patients enter an ED, an emergency nurse is the first person they see. An emergency nurse triages their condition, another stands next to the stretcher to provide their care, and still others advocate on their behalf so they can get the high-quality care they need and deserve.
The profession of emergency nursing doesn’t end there. Through the Emergency Nurses Association, nurses across the country are standing up and speaking out on the issues that affect our practice and our patients. We advocate for safer highways, better funding of nursing education, parity for mental health patients, increased screening and intervention for substance abusers—and much more. Emergency nursing is a proud, active profession. I’m proud to be an emergency nurse and to be president of the Emergency Nurses Association. I’m ready to serve the emergency nurses who serve our patients.
AnnMarie Papa is 2011 president of the Emergency Nurses Association.