March 7, 2009, 9:06 pm

Standing On Top of the World With ENA President Bill Briggs

billThe man never sleeps.

He says he does; I don’t believe it.

Meet William (Bill) Briggs,RN,MSN,CEN,FAEN, the current President of the Emergency Nurses Association.

Oh, he is also the Trauma Program Manager at Tufts University (Boston).

And he is a per diem staff nurse at Lowell General Hospital.

And he is a member of the Metro Boston Critical Incident Stress Management Team.

And he teaches TNCC and ENPC.

Geeze! I gripe when I have to work an extra four hours……


Bill was kind enough to sit down with me at the end of a busy Saturday and talk a bit about himself and about emergency nursing.

I had a blast.


Some people are born to be emergency nurses.  Bill was destined for the emergency department.  He wanted to be an EMT so badly that he took classes when he was seventeen so he could jump into the role on his 18th birthday.

He graduated from nursing school ready to hit the code room running!

Unfortunately, back in the late 70’s, you just about had to wait for someone to die before there would be an opening in ER.  Bill filled his time with gaining experience in med/surg and critical care, detouring to Saudi Arabia where he wound up managing the ER in a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital!

Bill’s been involved with ENA for so long it wasn’t even ENA when he joined, it was the “Emergency Department Nurses Association”.

Circa 1978.

Now he’s the president, and the professional organization for emergency nurses boasts a national roster of 36, 500 members.


There is a standing joke in ENA that if you get up to go to the bathroom during a local meeting, you’ll be appointed state president by the time you come back.

Around 1985, after being back in the states and involved again with his local chapter, Bill “came back from the bathroom” (so-to-speak) as the Massachusetts State TNCC Coordinator.  (Okay, he actually volunteered to do it, but the thought of getting an assignment while you’re in the bathroom was too funny for me to pass up!)


We often think of our managers and leaders as not being “hands on” or not really being involved in patient care.  Bill repeated a theme I heard often this weekend: that as a nurse leader/manager he could affect patient care on a more global scale, having much more influence than he could at the bedside.

But, two times a month, Bill dons the scrubs of a staff nurse and walks the talk in his per diem job at Lowell General, keeping himself connected to the patients and the staff nurse perspective.  “It’s just in me,” he notes.

And by the end of a Sunday PM shift in triage, he is more than ready to shift back into the leadership role!


This year, the ENA put a call out for committee members.  Eighty positions were available.  Over four hundred applications were received. It’s an organization record.

Bill believes that the surge in interest comes because the issues being studied are extremely important to ER nurses everywhere: crowding/boarding (the #1 issue for ER nurses), psychiatric care in the ED and workplace violence, to name just a few.


Emergency nursing requires passion for the work, passion that can become depleted as we get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of patient care or management obligations, putting us in danger of burn-out.

That’s where the ENA comes in.

By attending local meetings (or national conferences!) and networking with colleagues, we are able to reconnect with that passion.

And Bill Briggs is passionate about emergency nursing.

It’s contagious.  One meeting, and I felt re-energized.  Many, many thanks to Bill for taking the time to sit and talk with me and to Tony Phelps for arranging the interview.

(I still don’t believe he ever sleeps…..)


  • Judy@StrawCottage

    March 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Love that your blog is not just whining and complaining but addresses subjects that just might improve one’s nursing proactice. I referenced Emergiblog in my latest post.

  • Jeani Blanchfield

    March 9, 2009 at 3:54 am

    i would like to compliment Bill for his energy, time and support for ED nurses worldwide. It’s wonderful to see such passion for a stressful, over-burdened career. I would really like to know which hospital he worked in while he was in the Middle East. I would have to assume it being Aramco or King Faisal, as they are the biggest and most advanced. And again…thank you for re-energizing us all. We surely need it.

  • Healthcare Today

    March 10, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Standing On Top of the World With ENA President Bill Briggs // Emergiblog…

    An informal interview with Wiliam Briggs, President of the Emergency Nurses Association….

  • RehabRN

    March 13, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I think the management nurses who still work the floor, if only as a per diem staffer, are the only ones who really know what’s going on.

    I’m thinking about flying a desk in my future but only if I can work the floor once in a while like Bill.

    It’s the only way you really understand what’s going on…no ivory tower (whether in academia or in an office) can give you that.

  • Chris

    March 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I feel strongly about ageism in Nursing and I think it will be getting a lot of attention as the Boomers age. 40% of our nurses today are Boomers themselves! I wrote extensively (a whole chapter) on “Celebrating the Sages” in my book “Nurses Are From Heaven: Nursing Through Eyes of Faith”. The book acknowledges nurses and gives them the credit we so deserve. It is a heartwarming, inspirational account of what nurses go through and the caring forces which drive them to continue on in their work. It’s a great read: Nurses Are From Heaven: Nursing Through Eyes of Faith by Chris Feist-Heilmeier, RN.

  • Nancy Keefe Rhodes

    March 26, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I grew up with Bill Briggs & he was passionate about these matters even as a kid. It’s such a thrill that his sister has shared this post! He is – & always was – terrific. Your organziation couldn’t be in better hands!

  • Bill Briggs

    March 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    To Jeani Blanchfield, I worked for AMI in Al Baha at the King Khaled Hospital and did some consulting at the Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

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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