Maintain Your Emotional Health While Working in the ER

5 Ways to Stay Sane in the ER

Working in the emergency room requires certain skills to insure that you not only are great at your job, but that you don’t burnout. Here are five suggestions that will help you stay emotionally healthy while working in the ER.

By Jimmy Durham

“You new? Great, I don’t have time for this.”

Those were the first words uttered to me, or should I say, at me, by my emergency room preceptor. I came on staff at the time to help curb what was being called a “toxic work environment.”

At first glance, these healthcare professionals were cold and callous. Even if they would not be winning any congeniality medals, they were competent, and the unit director wanted to salvage that. It was my job to learn ER and then fix what could be fixed. The reality was that the nurses and doctors were not cold and callous — it was emotional self-defense and reaction.

There are some simple ways to cope with what the emergency room can throw at you. Here are five suggestions that will help you stay emotionally healthy while working in the ER.

1. Always opt to be PROactive rather than REactive.

I worked labor and delivery once upon a time, and delivering babies will teach you this better than anything. Regardless of what’s going on, when a baby is coming, that baby is coming. You always approach the situation as if you’ll be delivering a baby even if the due date is weeks away. The same principle applies in surgery. It’s better to have the supplies and not need them than to need them and not have them.

2. Always hold shift huddles.

Shift huddles are a great way for the oncoming team to layout a rudimentary plan for the shift. For example, assign roles like triage nurse, charge nurse, etc. Assign code roles so when a patient codes, there’s no confusion as to who will be pushing drugs, who will be documenting care or who will running the code.

3. Hold debriefings when a patient life is lost.

Losing a patient does something to us. It doesn’t matter if we did not know that person or their family. Debriefing even for a few minutes is a chance to stop and acknowledge that a life has been lost as well as recognize each other’s values.

4. Pause and take a breath before entering the patient’s room.

This is a moment of mindfulness to allow you to transition from one state of mind to another. That pause allows you to remember that you are about to meet a new person who is not having a great day.

5. Practice communication skills and swear off passive aggression.

Anyone who says they do not need any more work on communication skills is lying, lazy or delusional. Learn to say what you mean and mean what you say, and lose the passive-aggressive approach. It is infantile and you still end up not getting what you need.

Jimmy E. Durham, RN-BC, is a board certified registered nurse and writer with a strong background in primary and urgent care. He is based in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Jimmy on LinkedIn or Google+.






Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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