- 21 January 2022
- 7 min read
Emergency Department: My Journey From Student Nurse To SisterSubscribe To Advice
Everybody knows that the stakes are high in A&E. Beth gives an insight into her Nursing journey and what it takes to cope with the pressure of the Emergency Department.
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I never wanted to be a Nurse.
I didn’t long for a career in helping others from a young age, I didn’t run around my house with a stethoscope around my neck or take the temperatures of my family.
I came across this profession by chance, but it has made me the woman I am today.
Starting work in a local care home at the age of 15 was the beginning of my journey in healthcare, and formed the basis for my desire to go into Nursing.
Deciding to become a Nurse was the light bulb moment I had been waiting for, I had watched all of my friends go off to university one by one, whilst I stayed behind to work with the elderly, unsure of what my purpose in life would be.
But then as my role progressed, I realised that it was so much more than the Saturday job it had once been.
The residents became my whole life, I formed real attachments to them, looked after them, and cared for them in their last moments.
I loved hearing their stories, I loved helping them live their lives to the fullest, and I loved running a shift; I was working 60 hours a week by the age of 18.
Then, one day, it just became so obvious to me, I should apply for university to become a Nurse. It felt like the next step in a career I had already spent years developing, without even realising.
Going To University
Throughout university, I did numerous clinical placements, from Cardiology to Surgical, Outpatients and Mental Health placements, and although I enjoyed learning and experiencing new things, not one placement felt like the right ‘fit’ for me.
That is, until my A&E placement at the start of third year.
I was extremely nervous, partly because people tell you how busy and stressful it is, partly because I knew deep down this was what I was holding out for; but I loved everything about it.
There was a camaraderie within the team I had never seen anywhere else in the hospital, and I learnt so much in such a short space of time.
One defining moment I will never forget, was a young man who had been experiencing chest pain all weekend, otherwise fit and healthy, and he had left it until the Sunday evening to come in and get checked.
He had been brought straight into the resuscitation area, but had not been in the department 10 minutes when his wife came out screaming that he had collapsed.
He was in cardiac arrest, his heart had stopped, and the whole team appeared within seconds to start working on his body in an effort to keep him alive.
His wife, panicking, ran to call her son.
A few minutes later, the man sat bolt upright, pulled all the equipment off and opened his eyes, the team had effectively resuscitated him in a movie-like way I had never seen before, and have never seen since.
When I ran to tell his wife he was breathing and awake, she crumpled in relief in my arms. I had never known a feeling like it; saving a life.
So when the time came to apply for jobs, I applied for A&E.
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Life In A&E
When I told people that my ambition was to have a career in the Emergency Department, they all thought I was mad, stating it was ‘too busy, too stressful, and too hectic.'
And yet I have never regretted a single minute spent in A&E.
Starting as a newly qualified Nurse in such a busy de-partment was of course hard, it was overwhelming, and honestly I often found myself crying on shift wondering if everyone had been right.
If only I could have foreseen the level of experience, skill, and confidence I would gain over the next 4 years, going from being a student Nurse on my elective placement to a Sister within that very same department four years later, taking on an extra masters degree in Trauma Science, and writing research on department data.
My first shift as a Sister in charge came during the pandemic.
Even as a Sister with years of experience I was nervous, the whole department had changed due to the pandemic, there were new policies and procedures to follow, a whole new department layout, a new set of fears from both staff and pa-tients to comfort, and even the hospital bleep numbers had all changed.
But I think the best way to overcome fear within your role, is to experience the things you are nervous to do, once you have accomplished something once, you build the confidence to do it again.
I came on to an extremely busy department, with staff shortages, an influx of high level patients, and no beds in the hospital.
You have to work with the resources that you have, with the team as your biggest as-set, always ensuring your patients have the highest standards of care.
When things finally started to settle down the consultant pulled me aside and said the reason the department was now under control was because of the leadership I had shown; the newly qualified version of myself would have been so proud.
Create Your Own Destiny
My biggest piece of advice for a newly qualified Nurse in any department, is to take ownership of your own learning.
Create learning opportunities for yourself, sign up for training, clinical skills workshops, anything which will enhance your ability to fulfil the role.
When I first qualified, the fact I could not take bloods or cannulate very quickly became an issue as this is commonplace in A&E, and the next training course was months away.
I emailed the clinical skills trainer and asked if I got a group of the newly qualified Nurses together could she fit in anther training date and she agreed.
Taking the initiative in this way will not only build your confidence and ability, but it will set you apart.
Someone once told me that working in A&E was like being a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, But I don’t think that is right; you are a master of emergency presentations, prioritisation, resus-citation and adaptability.
Throughout my career I have seen so much in such a short space of time, no two shifts are the same, and you never know what will come through the door.
The beauty of working in such a hectic department is that the team really does become your family, you can rely on everyone to pull together when things get tough, supporting each other through things you will never experience with anyone else.
Working long days, and even longer nights, go-ing from a room filled with heartache one minute, and putting a smile on your face before entering the next.
I have seen moments teeming with life, moments so desperately haunted by death, and everything in-between.
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My life has been steered by the stories of others, the people I have met by chance throughout my career, people who probably cannot even remember my name. And in every corner of this world we live in there are people, moments, and there are stories, that come together to create something so magical within humanity.
The love of a family through adversity, survival against the odds, incidental findings that save a life.
Nursing is so much more than a career, it shapes who you are as a person, and although more often than not it is difficult, it is stressful, and it is emotional, it is important to remember that the role of a Nurse is also admirable and honest.
Nurses are there to help in the moments where help is needed the most, and that is something to be proud of.