A southern Oregon ER Nurse strikes the right notes on what it’s like serving in the field.
(The nurse requested no name be used)
I am a longtime employee of Providence ER and would like to share some insight into our crazy ER world, which we commonly refer to as “organized chaos.”
I was working the night that you came in and recognized you immediately, but due to patient privacy, it would not have been inappropriate for me to approach you in the waiting room. However…I was definitely wondering ” what the heck you must have been thinking” surrounded by all the crazy chaos going on around you! (I listen to your radio show often) And I’m glad your mother is going to be alright!
Generally speaking, I think it is difficult for the general public to understand the fundamentals of the ER and the art of providing the best care possible under enormous mental and physical pressure.
Here are some things we wish our patients knew, but never speak of:
- 99.9% of people that enter this profession do so with good intentions and are compassionate about helping people. Of course there are always a few bad apples, but they are very rare.
- Our workplace in the ER has become increasingly dangerous and violent over the last few years, primarily due to an increase in drug use, homelessness, and a basic disregard for the law and/or consequences for criminal behavior. A few days ago I was almost punched in the face by a 250lb drunk, mentally ill man who unexpectedly raised his fist to me when I attempted to help him into a wheelchair. Thankfully, security positioned next to me was able to intercept the punch before it hit my face.
- We are dealing with massive Fentanyl overdoses and other drugs on a daily basis,
- The ER is becoming a safe house to solve deep rooted social issues such as homelessness, insurance issues, mental illness and family problems, taking up valuable time and resources that could be solved elsewhere.
- ER employees are entrusted with a high degree of self-regulation and decision making. We don’t get caught up in trivial policies or subjects because we just don’t have the time. Mask wearing hasn’t been a huge deal for us, like other departments. Here’s the deal… If you have something contagious or act like you may have something I can catch from you (RSV, Flu, Covid, or just slober) I’m going to throw a mask on because I don’t want to feel your slober droplets hit my face when I’m working 5 inches from your body. If your here for a broken leg and you seem healthy, no, I’m not going to take the time to cover my face. I have never had anyone over my shoulder insisting I wear a mask unnecessarily except during the height of the pandemic. In that case (for a season) I wore an N95 if I was dealing with covid patients. Not outside, not in my car, and definitely NOT to make a social statement. Good old fashioned common sense is the norm for most of us.
- People are having great difficulty obtaining timely appointments to see their primary care doctors. Most clinics are booked weeks or months out, so If you have a stomach ache and aren’t able to see your doctor for 8 weeks, you may be forced to check-in at the ER, and assessed for a problem that otherwise could be handled at Primary care, resulting in overcrowding at our ER. Another example of the system attempting to funnel us all into a socialized vacuum of healthcare.
- We work hard. REALLY hard.. We walk fast, move fast, and think fast for hours and hours, sometimes without a break or food. So when you tell us how miserable you are in the waiting room because you haven’t had a snack in 5 hours, forgive us if we don’t respond with empathy.
- We are very well trained to triage and assess your symptoms for urgency when you check in to the ER. We are trained to prioritize based upon the actively dying first, then potential to die next, then serious condition, but less risky, then moderate, then mild risk, then “I’m just here for a sandwich.” You may be super sick and waiting in the waiting room for 5 hours, but we have not forgotten about you. We are monitoring your blood work, your vital signs, and visually watching you even if you are still in the waiting room. If you are waiting a long time, it means that every bed possible and hallway is filled with patients that are sicker than you are, but we still have compassion for how you feel, we just cant do anything different at the time. We WANT to get you back to a room as quickly as possible.
- I work with some of the most intelligent, compassionate and hard-working people I know. I would trust anyone of them with my life, and my family’s life. We help each other, we have each other’s back and we know how to jump into motion like a well-oiled machine. There are times we may have just worked tirelessly to save someone’s life without success, while comforting a devastated family member, and then 5 min later had to put on a happy face and address the patient at the counter calling us names because he’s had to wait 2 hours for a sprained ankle.
Our job has become increasingly more difficult, and dangerous on many levels. We are kicked, punched, bit, spit on, and verbally assaulted on a daily basis. The Fentanyl crisis has also put us at a much higher risk of accidental exposure and needle sticks.
So why do we do this insane job you ask???
For most of us it is a calling. We are passionate about caring for people and gain satisfaction by helping people feel better. Most of us are intellectually overstimulated to some degree and enjoy channeling our energy into quick thoughts and action. Yes, we are adrenaline junkies, (how could you not be) but we will also not hesitate to hold your hand in times of crisis.. It’s not always perfect. We hold different political and social views, and we may have co-workers we don’t like as much as others.. But at the end of the day… I know my co-workers will always have my back and I will have theirs, and I am confident that the vast majority of our team truly has a heart to care for and serve others during times of sickness and difficulty.
A patriotic, compassionate, God-loving voice from the local ER