INTERVIEW | How to Handle Stress as an ER Nurse with RN Linda Hughes

Linda RN nurse. MEDIjobs

Working as an ER nurse is always a challenge. But now, with the entire world fighting COVID-19, it is crucial to know how to deal with stress in a hectic work environment. That is why I interviewed Registered Nurse Linda Hughes, who worked for 10 years in the ER.

During her time as an Emergency Room nurse, she learned how to manage stressful situations on a daily basis. This became specifically important when pandemics such as Influenza H1N1 and Ebola added extra pressure to the work environment. Consequently, she can provide some great advice to all ER nurses facing this new and evolving health crisis. 

How long did you work in the ER?

I was an ER Nurse for about 10 years in two different hospitals in the Hudson Valley area. In total, I have worked as a nurse for 42 years until I retired in 2018.

How often did you experience stressful situations at the Emergency Room?

Every day! We had people coming in with traumatic injuries, chest pain and you have to act fast. As an ER nurse, I was posted at triage most of the time and you frequently receive patients that are nervous and confused. Patients can also arrive in an ambulance and require immediate intervention or surgery and you need to react appropriately.

Stress can come from a patient’s family member who is dealing with the shock associated with an unplanned hospital visit. These are all things that you learn to deal with! My advice is to remain calm and focus on the most important part which is taking care of the patient.

As an ER nurse was your work environment affected by the Ebola scare or the Influenza H1N1 Pandemic?

For both, the hospital gave us protocol on how to proceed. We did have some confirmed cases of Influenza, but none of Ebola. With H1N1 the concern I had was making sure at-risk patients didn’t end up with respiratory issues or further complications. While working as a nurse in the ER during those times, I knew that the correct use of PPE, constant handwashing and patient isolation was key to containment.  Obviously there was a concern that you could contract the virus, but that’s why you use precautions and follow the protocol.

Always when there is a pandemic, the most important thing is to follow the protocols issued by the WHO, CDC, and your local government. The current situation with COVID-19 requires that all healthcare professionals keep themselves healthy and work cooperatively.  

What were the key elements that helped you go through those moments?

First of all, breathe (laughs). That is the ER Nurse mantra. It is the simplest thing you can do and it truly helps. Also, if the situation allows, take a moment to go to the bathroom, or walk outside. Break the tension you may be holding in. Another important thing to do is, keep yourself hydrated and eat when you need to. Long shifts can make you miss meals or snacks and that will bring your energy down.

Food and water can help change your perspective and improve your mood. Humor is also something that will help you to cope with daily stress. Oh, and when you have a minute, as an ER nurse, you should always check in with some of your colleagues. They are under a lot of pressure at times and they might need some support or help covering. Everyone goes through a lot so give them what you can when you can.

Which were the most rewarding things of being an ER nurse?

Every time I saw a patient improving I felt rewarded. You can experience a lot of stressful situations in the ER, but you also enjoy seeing the positive steps in a patient’s recovery.  I enjoyed talking to kids, helping them stay positive and having a good time while they were in the ER. At the end of the day as an ER Nurse, you are providing a service to the community and that is always rewarding. 

If you could give any advice to ER nurses and nursing students, what would it be?

Being an ER Nurse means that you love what you do, that is the most important thing to keep in mind. You are there to provide care, and after your shift, you get to be with your family at home. Patients sometimes don’t have that possibility. The best advice I could give? Keep yourself and your colleagues feeling supported and protected as they can be a second family. Stay safe while dealing with this global struggle. We’re all in it together. That will allow you to take care of your patients and your community in the best way.

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About the author

Sam Attal

Sam has been working in the healthcare industry for 5 years, she lives in Georgia with her husband and 2 dogs. She freelances as a content writer and loves to read about medical trends and share the knowledge around.

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