Have You Hugged Your ER Nurse Today?


A few years ago I packed up my trauma shears, kelly clamps and community acquired antibodies to leave ER Nursing behind me. The separation was quick and clean and one of the toughest career decisions that I have ever made but knew it was healthiest for me to quit while I was still on top of my game and while I remained patient, competent and caring.

To me, the intrinsic beauty of ER Nursing was in the capacity to choose to be someone’s hero every day but believe me when I say that ER Nursing can suck the life out of you. If you let it.

So there you have it. A love/hate relationship if ever there was one.

During my twenty-odd years in ER Nursing I recall the token gifts of appreciation that were given to us by our nurse managers during Emergency Nurses Week…
  • an “ER Nurse’s Call The Shots” t-shirt
  • a  tote bag with matching pen
  • a battery-operated alarm clock 
Although I was thankful for the gesture, I couldn’t help but think that Emergency Nurses Week always fell a little flat.

Why? I think I get it now.

How do you thank someone for…
  • Allowing themselves to be exposed to God-knows-what-kind of viruses, bacteria, air-borne and blood-borne pathogens on a daily basis?
  • Caring enough to incorporate extraordinary measures - just to make sure a patient can get a ride home?
  • Working for several hours without so much as a drink of water?
  • Bathing a homeless person - just because they needed it – all the while hoping you are adequately protected from the transmission of scabies and/or lice?
  • Participating in the life-saving efforts of a critically ill child..immediately followed by de-escalating someone who is angry because they "are waiting too long to be seen" by the doctor for their rash?
  • Reaching into their own pocket to help a patient or family member down on their luck?
  • Choosing to "rise above" and continue to care for someone who just verbally, physically and/or emotionally assaulted you?
  • Risking personal injury by having to restrain someone who may hurt him or herself?
  • Rarely receiving a simple thank-you?
I could go on forever, but now I understand why the tote bag didn't cut it.
In my opinion, ER Nurses are not motivated by gratitude or money...but simply to the service of caring for human beings ...at their worst.

Emergency Nursing. It's a thank-less job - but somebody has to do it. And I'm proud to say that I've been fortunate enough to have worked along-side some of the best.

What can I say?

Keep your chin up, your eyes open and know that you are 'in the trenches' for a reason.

You are there not only for your patients and family members. You are there for the docs, cops, firemen and co-workers that need you to be.

So, for all you intelligent, skilled, compassionate and funny ER Nurses out there…Thank You. And know that you are sincerely appreciated.

If only by an ex-ER Nurse.

PS: I miss you.

UAB "ER Rap"...

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