Samantha - ED Nurse

Samantha - ED Nurse

Today we are speaking with Samantha, an ED Nurse from Sydney who converted to nursing from the office after an epiphany. Hi Samantha! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for the Nurse Life blog! Can I start with asking how you got into nursing?
Hello 🙂 I was 29. It was the New Year’s Day of the year I was turning 30. I’d been working in an office doing admin work and was just dissatisfied with sitting in front of a computer. I knew I wanted to work on my feet and with people giving back to the community. So how did I decide nursing? I flipped a coin! A literal coin. One side teaching. And one side nursing. I am so happy it landed on nursing although education is always in the back of my mind and I am working towards becoming a student facilitator
Oh wow that's awesome! So what is your current role?
I am a rn 4 in a busy south west Sydney emergency department. I am studying my post grad in emergency nursing and have just applied to also go and study to become a midwife.
Oh amazing! So what do you love about being an emergency nurse? And how long have you been doing it?
I’ve worked in ED for two years next month. I love how fast paced it is. I love how my work colleagues are my family now - ED life and ward nursing life are two totally different things. ED feels like you are going to battle but everyone has your back. I love how many skills I have acquired, how much my confidence has grown and how my brain is constantly being tested. We are often the first port of call for a patient and it’s great being able to identify issues/cause for concern before the doctor.
What would you say to a nurse who wanted to get into emergency nursing? What kind of things could they do to prepare?
Personally I didn’t prepare. I applied for the job and prayed.
But knowing ECG interpretations, brush up on common policies - blood product administration etc., enrol in a cannulation course, learn to read VBGs, learn chest sounds and how to listen to a chest, practise handovers, practise A-G assessments. No one expects you to know everything- never be afraid to ask for help. We all started somewhere.
What do you think are some important traits to have as an emergency nurse?
Great communication- with both patient/staff/doctors. Adaptability- you can’t prepare for what an ambulance brings you- you just have to roll with it. I don’t know the word- but like- just do it and don’t stuff around- I don’t need a ten min handover about a patient- I want facts and only important facts. Confidence in yourself- you do know what you are doing!! Finally- a strong stomach- I have seen and smelt things I never want to experience again- and then I go have lunch!
Hahaha yes! And so what kind of patients do you usually see in a shift? And any idea of how many patients you would see in a shift?
We see:
Cardiac arrests
Lots of chest pain
Abdo pain
Shortness of breath
Intentional drug overdoses
A wide range of mental health
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Falls- oh so many falls
ED has multiple areas so depending where you work as to how many patients you see. But in a 12 hour shift I can look after 10- 40 patients.
Amazing! 40 patients in one day! Your head would be spinning with all that information. I'm sure you would see some pretty heavy stuff in ED. How do you personally cope with those rough days? Do you have any self care tips?
I won’t lie. Some days you want to cry and quit (mainly now during covid with so many positive patients coming through the door). But I try to work my roster so that I have optimal time off. Talk to friends. Debrief. Come home and play with my dog.
Yeah rostering can make a big difference to coping I think. Can you tell us about one of the hardest things you've seen as an emergency nurse?
Hmmmm great question. Two things come to mind;
1. Having to be there when someone gets a cancer diagnosis. That’s just awful
2. Paediatric resus- when they don’t make it is heartbreaking and just takes a small part of your soul.
It’s difficult because you have to deal with that situation- turn around and continue on with your day- generally fetching a urine bottle for someone!
That is really hard. Have you ever had a shift where you just could not bounce back from something?
I still remember my first death. It happened on my new grad on a surgical ward. I remember crying in the med room all morning and then that night on the phone to a friend. I now have the ability to walk off the ED floor and leave my day behind. Of course I remember things- I just don’t carry them heavy in my heart When working on a ward I would get to know the patient so well. I could tell you the name of their 5th grade teachers cat! ED is so much quicker- in- fix them- ship them to a ward. There is less time for getting to know someone. I think that aspect makes it easier to disassociate from tough situations.
Now for something a bit lighter. What is something you have done in your career that you are proud of?
Do I have a story for you! It’s a super hot Saturday arvo in feb this year- a colleague and I are at the beach with our dogs going for a swim on our day off. Driving home we spot a man laying on the side of the road-it’s about 4pm and the sun is beaming. We pull over and ask the crowd of people “what’s going on” they shove a phone in my colleagues hand (ambulance is on the other end. I’m on my hands and knees on the scorching road checking if the man is breathing. He isn’t! I look to my colleague and say “he’s not bloody breathing!” Men in the crowd help me roll him On his back and I start chest compressions. My colleague shouts for someone to get a defib from a nearby hotel. Chest compressions continue. Defib arrives. We do three more rounds of CPR and chest compressions before the ambulance arrives. They pop an LMA in and shock him once and get ROSC!!! They whisk him away and we are left standing on the side of the road in disbelief. We drive home- speechless. What the heck just happened. A few days later the head of ambulance calls us to say he is sitting upright in bed chatting with a GCS of 15 and they want us to meet! One week later we are interviewed by channel 9 and we meet the man whose life we saved!!! If it weren’t for mine and my colleagues ED experience and ALS training this mans life may have gone in a completely different direction. May I add- this was all done barefoot and in our swimwear!!
Oh My God! That is a damn good story! It's those moments where you go yes I have skills that really contribute to people's lives! I'm sure that this man will never forget you. Lastly if you had a friend or family member come to you tomorrow and say "I think I want to be a nurse" what would you say to them?
This is a hard one
And I want to answer honestly.
I’d tell them- I love my job. There is nothing else I can imagine doing. Not only am I part of a team that helps people- that team also helps me- I have never felt more accepted and part of a family as I do when I am with my ED family. But- I am tired! No one can prepare you for night shifts/late earlys/ or lack of peeing! Remember why you wanted to get into this profession and just do the best you can. Also remember to look after yourself!
Thank you so much for your honesty. Nursing is amazing but we can't gloss over the difficult parts of it. I guess you just need to work out if what you get from nursing is enough to outweigh the tough parts. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Take care of yourself
Shift work can lead to a bad cycle of no sleep and red bull which is never a good mix
Always ask for help!
We are a team
Nursing is 24/7
Thank you so much for sharing all of that with me!

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Stay safe brothers and sisters!

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