Working in the Emergency Room

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Working in the Emergency Room

TV medical dramas show both a glamorous and grotesque view into the life of Emergency Room medical professionals.  You may be intrigued by both of these aspects.  ER work allows an intense immersion in the medical field; you’ll be highly respected as a medical professional that deals with the worst side of patient injury and illness.  Here are a few things you’ll want to consider if you want to devote your career to serving patients in the emergency room:

Who works in the ER

Student Emma assisting the midwife in TanzaniaThe first point of patient interaction in the emergency room begins with the triage nurse who will determine the urgency and severity of a patient’s problem.  Once admitted into the ER, a patient will see and interact with any number of medical professionals, including emergency room technicians, doctors, physician assistants, lab technicians, and medical administrative assistants. They are most likely to be treated by am emergency room nurse. If an injury is serious and warrants surgery, then a team of surgeons is also available to assist in the emergency room. Medical professionals who work in the Emergency Room are specially trained to treat patients in a trauma situation, and their ethic is to treat first and worry about payment later. The ER is similar to a loss-leader in the grocery store; it is a department that does not generate loads of income for a hospital, but it is one of the most valuable departments in the organization.

What you’ll see in the ER

Unfortunately, in the emergency room, expect to see people… lots of them!  Waiting is a common scene in the emergency room, patients, children, family members, and loved ones. Over 120 million visits to the ER occur every year.  Those waiting in the ER are less likely to be in true medical danger, a blessing in disguise as you can imagine.  Patients who come to the emergency room can be suffering from any number of problems, including chest pain, abdominal pain, broken bones and sprains, various cuts, abrasions, and contusions, skin infections, and headaches.  Among the most common admissions to the ER are children and adults who have somehow gotten a foreign object stuck in the body – think coins, small toy parts, and the occasional adult sex toy. Blood, guts, and other bodily fluids rule the day in the emergency room, so be prepared to see any and all types of graphic human problems if you work in the ER.

The hours and the anxiety

Laura assisting her mentor in the obstetrics and gynaecology department in TanzaniaThe emergency room never closes, so your work schedule in the ER is likely to change on a regular basis.   The work in the emergency room never stops, but expect to be especially busy on Monday mornings, Saturday nights, and often in the early evening hours.  You’ll be working with patients and families under great stress to make sure that nothing tragic befalls them. If the situation is life-or-death, be prepared to deal with tremendous amounts of anxiety. You’ll need to do your best to remain calm and level-headed during the emergency situations you handle.  Your patients and their families depend on your ability to remedy their frightening situations.

Is the ER right for you?

If you want to work in a fact-paced, high-energy environment where you can make an immediate difference in the lives of patients, then the ER might just be the best place for you to stake your claim in medicine. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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