Warning: Hazards of Being an E.R. Nurse
Emergency nursing is a specialized field of the nursing profession. In this field, nurses are equipped and trained to deal with patients in critical phase of their illness and injury. Emergency room nurses are capable of treating patients in this phase without any or complete diagnosis.
Emergency room nurses are used to fast paced environment. Since the emergency department of a hospital, is usually overcrowded emergency room nurses can be seen multitasking to balance and prioritize patients and their time. How dangerous is it to be working in a hospital?
With increasing reports of emergency department violence, emergency nurses are placed among police officers and other peace officers. The Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 4.000 health care professionals to experience verbal and physical assault while working in the ER (2005).
Different steps are being undertaken to address the escalating umber of violence experienced by emergency room staff. Legislations in increasing the penalty for perpetrators are awaiting decision from the Assembly. Various programs and trainings to resolve violence are commencing in hospitals and other health care institutions.
So what else is dangerous about being an emergency nurse?
According to the International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation as released by the International Labour Organization, there are seven main dangers emergency nurses can be exposed to.
- Emergency room nurses, as part of their responsibilities; cleans, disinfects and sterilize medical equipment. They may be exposed to agents that may damage the skin, mucous membranes and respiratory system.
- Emergency room nurses can also be exposed to anesthetic gases, drugs and radiation.
- Emergency room nurses may be injured by shard objects like needles, blades and other similar objects.
- They may contact with hot surfaces, faulty electrical equipment and may cause skin burns.
- Sick patients in the emergency room present a risk of infection from body fluids.
- Emergency room nurses may suffer from musculoskeletal problems and back pains due to handling heavy patients. Continuous work while standing and walking may cause fatigue and leg problems.
- Emergency room nurses also may suffer from stress and burnout caused by shift and night work and by other psychological and organization factors.
The Emergency Nurses Association recognizes the increasing number of emergency nurses experiencing stress. The emergency care environment can be very stressful and physically and emotionally traumatic for the health care workers and nurses.
ENA recognizes the following contributing factors in the increasing stress levels of emergency room nurses.
- Critical incidents that can cause strong emotion and may interfere with the ability to perform the duties. Incidents like mass casualties, disasters, unexpected death of a child or co-worker can be attributing factors.
- Long term demands can also be a stressor. Long work hours, job insecurity, poor communication and an increased potential for a workplace violence fall under this factor.
ENA sees that unresolved issue of stress can result into absenteeism, sleep disorders, burn out, emotional difficulties and health problems.
So how can these repercussions be avoided?
International Labor Organization (ILO) provided several pointers to keep the emergency department safe for the emergency room health workers. Nurses should comply with all safety instructions and conduct periodic inspection of electrical medical equipment. Keeping all passages clearly visible and uncluttered is also another tip. Following appropriate procedures in infection control and handling and disposing sharp objects is necessary.
To resolve the stress emergency nurses are experiencing, ENA supports the development and utilization of critical incident stress management. ENA also supports the use of personal stress management strategies like relaxation, meditation, exercise, group therapy, guided imagery, massage or humor therapy.
ENA also recognizes the impact of workplace violence and the need for a program which would include education, prevention, appropriate security measures, identification of incidents, reporting and protocols.
Emergency nurses have a very rewarding job and at the same a dangerous one. These are all the sacrifices they have to put up the serve the people.