October 9, 2007, 12:13 pm

Emergency Nursing: It is What It is


I love this ad.

I’ve used it before.

There was a time when this single piece of paper was the difference between a burn out of no return and a rekindling of the reasons I went into nursing to begin with.

I’m not burning out, I know what that feels like.

I guess I’m just weary of work. It’s not like I’m overdoing it, I only work three days a week.

Which makes me a weary wimp!

Ah, well.

I have a whole month off starting in November. I’ll spend the entire time at Starbucks.


Emergency nursing is:

… your fourth septic work-up on an elderly nursing home resident with automatic admit and 58% more paperwork.

… your fourth six-month-old-with-fever who smiles while you talk, at least until you go for the rectal temperature.

… the frantic parents of a newborn who aren’t sure about the difference between spitting-up and vomiting.

… telling a woman who is 14 weeks pregnant that there is no fetal heartbeat.


… the chaos of a full arrest.

… the stillness of a cold, rainy 0400.

… the pungent odor of ETOH and urine emanating from a cursing homeless guy.

… the smell of Old Spice and the stories of a World War II veteran waiting for his labs.

… a patient with metastatic cancer who still wants to fight,

… in the room next to the teenager who tried to commit suicide via acetaminophen.


… knowing drug-seeking behavior when you see it.

… wanting to give the patient the benefit of the doubt.

… getting chewed out for the wait time by the patient with a stubbed baby toe.

… not being able to move fast enough to keep up with a GI bleeder.

… explaining for the bazillionth time why a fever is not dangerous.

… explaining to the parents why their child needs transferring to a pediatric facility.


… finding five different ways of saying “we don’t give advice over the phone” without actually giving advice.

… taking the call from the pharmacist when the patient alters the Vicodin scrip to read #120.

… frustration over ever increasing paperwork requirements.

… getting it done anyway.

… pulling the Gummy Bear out of a nose.

… watching a child (of any age) say good-bye to their father for the last time.


… wishing your co-workers would move a little faster…

… and then pulling an extra shift so they are off for THE concert of the year.

… hating your job with a passion today and

… realizing you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else tomorrow.

… ending your shift with the feeling that maybe, just maybe, you made a difference to someone.

Emergency nursing.

It is what it is.


  • Peggikaye

    October 9, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    beautiful Kim

  • rlbates

    October 9, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Sums it up nicely!

  • Night Witch

    October 9, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I love it.

  • A Bohemian Road Nurse...

    October 9, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Thank God for nurses like you. I burned out in ’04 and have (literally) put myself out to pasture, heh. But I take heart in knowing that there are still fabulous nurses like you still in there, in the trenches, fighting onwards…

    (And I hope you have loads of fun on your time off!)

  • Marijke

    October 9, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    that is a cool ad.

    I tried emerg, I lasted three weeks. ICU was more my speed. I like them cleaned up when I get them. 🙂
    But even that didn’t really do it for long. Before I quit nursing completely, I was in palliative care and that is my passion now with my writing too.

    I’ve been the recipient of emergency nurses many times and I always remember how I didn’t last at it. We all have our own niche – I’m glad you found yours.

  • Nurse K

    October 9, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    ER rules, man.

  • AlisonH

    October 9, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    I was a 14 week pregnant patient in heavy labor met at the ER doors by a nurse, 26 years ago. Her compassion helped far more than she will ever know. I will never forget her nor how grateful I was for her being there for me.

  • Erica

    October 9, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    I’m speechless. And that takes some doin’.

    Well said.

  • nocturnal RN

    October 10, 2007 at 1:34 am

    Wow. Loved this entry. So true.

  • unsinkablemb

    October 10, 2007 at 8:27 am

    hi there… great post as usual! hope all is well with you. enjoy your time off in november.



  • Jen

    October 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

    couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Candy

    October 10, 2007 at 11:18 am

    A month off??? (small amount of jealousy) good for you.

  • ERnursey

    October 11, 2007 at 6:48 am

    That is a great ad, and a great post.

  • karmyk

    October 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

    love this! i’m in the e.d. for my preceptorship now, and i don’t think i want to be anywhere else. =)

  • ellejai

    October 11, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Thank you, Kim…for resuscitating me, again and, Happy Emergency Nurses Week!!! Featuring:Throwback Emergency Ghetto Medicine at it’s finest…Livin the life of the ER nurse, la Vita Loca….

  • New Nurse Jane

    October 11, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    I nearly cried that was expressed so well.
    I do not think I would be able to work in the Emergency Dept. I do love telemetry, that is where I started and I am sticking to it.

  • No Burn Out « New Nurse Jane

    October 11, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    […] these great words, get inspired by Kim over at […]

  • Amy

    October 12, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Hi Kim,
    I love your blog!! Thanks to you and Disappearing John, Emergency Dept. is were I want to be after graduation.
    Thanks Kim,

  • makeminetrauma

    October 14, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Beautiful summary. The ad rocks! You ER sorts work way too hard with few and far rewards. Thank goodness you haven’t all burned out and there are still people like yourself who continue to care.

    Think I’ll stay in the OR, thank you very much!

  • Julie

    October 15, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Excellent post.

    I love that ad too!

  • Amie

    October 16, 2007 at 5:13 am

    THAT is why I want to be an Emergency Room Nurse. I WANT to make a difference. And this post gave me the encouragment I needed to get going to school so I CAN do this.


  • Heidi

    October 17, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Hi Kim — Awesome post, it was very inspiring. Just wondering — where did you find that ad? I’ve been looking for it on the internet, trying to find a larger-sized version to put at my desk.

  • Mon

    October 20, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Wow.. I like it too.

    Uhm.. I took nursing not because I wanted to help or anything. I took it because I thought that my classmates are going to my school and going take the course.

    But when I was in my second year, I begun to like nursing… and now i feel like it is my calling already. I haven’t revived a patient yet since I am always given ten q2 or q4 patients unlike my girl classmates wjo got all the fun. sometimes it frustrate me how people view nursing as a girly course.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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