Emergency nurses bring intuition, skill and experience to the front line

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“Emergency nurses are a special group of nurses who balance uncertainties with routines of care, who bring critical thinking to every patient transaction, who are alert to a host of unexpected risks with even the simplest of presentations, and who return to their workplace again and again for more of the same.”

That statement comes from the National Emergency Nurses Association and carries extra weight this week as October 7-13 celebrates Emergency Nurses Week.

The IWK Emergency Department saw more than 31,000 patients last year, with an average of 100 patients coming through their doors each day and nurses are there for every visit.

“As an emergency nurse, you have to be able to deal with any type of patient situation from routine minor injuries and illnesses, all the way up to major traumas,” says Rebecca deChamplain, clinical leader, IWK Emergency Department (pictured far right).

Within the Emergency Department at the IWK, there are more than 40 nursing staff, all who come to the department with extra training and experience to meet the unique needs of emergency care. Nurses are the first people patients and families interact with when they arrive to the health centre via the Emergency Department and that first meeting is critical.

“You have to be able to quickly recognize symptoms, use your intuition, skills and experience, and pick up on cues that you see in the patient that may indicate something is more serious than it first seemed,” says deChamplain.

On the other hand, that first meeting can also be about reassuring families and helping bring them calm. “It’s really nice to be the first person to reassure families if they come in very distressed and their child has something they’re quite worried about but in the end may not be as worrisome as they first thought,” adds deChamplain. “Nurses are the first person to reassure them and help calm them down.”

Emergency nurses are always multitasking, balancing the need to prioritize patient care but still ensure they’re meeting the needs of all patients in the department. “We want to provide the best, most personalized care for everyone but we always have our eyes and ears open for anything that can go wrong,” says deChamplain.

“IWK nurses working in our Pediatric Emergency Department, Emergency Mental Health & Addiction Services and Early Labour Assessment Unit are compassionate, knowledgeable and skilled professionals,” says Alyson Lamb, director, nursing & interprofesional practice. “Their expertise in providing collaborative, family-centred care in incredibly challenging circumstances is truly appreciated.”