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Emergency nursing is a very challenging job. The main responsibility of emergency (ER) nurses is to provide highly skilled emergency medical care for patients. Although emergency nursing is a specialty, it incorporates almost every other nursing specialty in the profession. Emergency nurses deal with pregnant women, newborn babies, patients with cancer, children, accident victims, AIDS patients, Alzheimer's patients, the elderly, cardiac arrest patients, and psychologically disturbed and violent people. Emergency care can range from giving general nursing care to someone with a severe case of the flu, to performing life-saving procedures.
When a patient enters the emergency facility, the nurses must first assess the patient and determine the immediacy of the illness or injury. This includes a quick preliminary diagnosis and assessment of the patient's overall condition. They talk to the patient and family. They also record vital signs and observe the patient's symptoms or check for injuries that may not be readily visible.
Emergency nurses must prioritize their patients' needs, especially if it is a triage situation, such as a disaster or accident involving a number of people who require treatment. They must be able to stabilize the patient; prepare the patient for emergency testing, laboratory procedures, or surgery; and perform resuscitation, if necessary. In many instances the nurse will have to perform initial treatment until a doctor can see the patient. This may include setting up or using high-tech medical equipment.
In many cases, emergency nurses are confronted with situations that require them to act immediately, independently, and confidently. But, they must be a good team player, working with other medical, administrative, and law enforcement personnel in what can become a very tense and emotional situation.
Often emergency nurses must be patient advocates, meaning that they must help the patient receive the best possible care and also respect the patient's wishes regarding treatment. Nurses must be in touch with the family during the emergency crisis and help them deal with their emotions and fears.
Not only are emergency nurses required to attend to the physical needs of patients, they may be involved in crisis intervention in some cases such as homelessness, sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse.
Emergency nurses must also act as educators. Many people who are seen in emergency care facilities do not have access to follow-up care so nurses must educate their patients about self-care when they are discharged. This may include showing them how to care for their wounds or injuries or recommending lifestyle changes, if necessary, to adapt to their conditions or plans of treatment.
Flight nurses are specialized emergency nurses who care for critically ill or injured patients who are being transported from accident scenes to a medical care facility or from one hospital to another.