An Interview with Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner, Jennifer H., BSN, MSN, FNP

Jennifer works part of the year as a nurse practitioner in an emergency room in a south suburban Illinois hospital. She also teaches undergraduate nursing courses during the school year.

What was your educational path toward becoming an ER nurse and Nurse Educator?

I earned an RN degree and an MSN with my specialty being FNP (family nurse practitioner). I also have a BSN degree in Foods and Nutrition. I work as a nurse practitioner in the emergency room part of the year, and teach for the rest of the year.

Tell me about your role as a Nurse Educator? What do you like about it?

I teach in a BSN program. I mostly teach the hands-on classes, such as how to do a physical assessment, how to put in catheters or nasogastric tubes, or how to deal with chest pain emergency. I also teach a pharmacology course. I like it. It's very satisfying to feel you have a strong influence on the practice techniques of future nurses, because it's so important that they practice safely and have a solid foundation and understanding in nursing, most importantly for patient safety. The challenging part is that it is like being in college again. With lesson planning, there is always work to do!

What do you like about your job as an ER nurse?

I love ER nursing because it's fast paced and you get a variety of presentations of various illnesses. There's never a dull moment. I also love the problem solving approach in emergency nursing with a nurse practitioner degree. A patient comes in with certain symptoms and you have to figure out what it is. It's exciting and a bit of investigative work which I always love. And unlike teaching, as an RN or NP, once you finish your shift, you're done. I love that.

What do you feel is the most rewarding part about being an Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner?

I would say seeing results quickly. For example, if someone comes in with a laceration, you suture it and you see vast improvement very quickly. With many other areas of nursing, patients are sent home with medications, follow up weeks or months later and you don't know the result until a follow up appointment.

What is the most challenging part about your ER Nursing job?

At the end of a busy ER shift, sometimes I barely have time to sit down and chart the patients let alone sit down and eat. It can be extremely tiring emotionally and physically. If it's really busy and we have a waiting room full of people, you feel the pressure to move patients along, assuming you've ruled out the most ominous or dangerous diagnoses. With the litigious society that we live in now in the U.S., it's also sometimes very challenging to practice because so many people come in expecting a CT scan for abdominal pain for example or for a headache, when those scans are extremely high in radiation and very costly. To use your diagnostic skills and rule out appendicitis for example or brain tumor or hemorrhage is what we're taught to do. But if there's a minute chance that you miss that tumor you can be sued, so we're constantly faced with that fraction of a chance that something bad can happen and therefore it's safer for us, protection wise, to run more procedures. It's a huge downside of practicing medicine now in the U.S., this defensive medicine philosophy.

What would be your advice to someone interested in becoming an ER Nurse?

I would strongly recommend ER nursing if you are comfortable not having a routine. You need to be comfortable seeing plenty of blood, bones, etc and people in acute distress. Because it's fast paced, you don't have much time to sit down and it can be exhausting, but it's exhilarating as well.

To learn more about a career as an Emergency Room Nurse, ER Nurse training and more visit the Emergency Room Nurse Career Profile article also written by Lynn S. at NSD. You may also want to check out the Nurse Educator Career Profile to learn more..

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