On What It Takes to Be a Nurse
Emergency Room nurse Erin Brown, RN is dedicated to her patients at the Lake Wales Medical Center (LWMC). In January, she was awarded Employee of the Month for her dedication and exemplary service. In honor of National Nurses Week, happening May 6-12, we talked to her recently about some of the challenges and rewards of working in such a demanding, yet necessary, field.
Central Florida Health News (CFHN): How long have you been in nursing, and how long at Lake Wales Medical Center?
Erin Brown, RN: I’ve been a nurse for a little over two years and I’ve been at LWMC for about a year and a half.
CFHN: Where did you earn your nursing degree?
Brown: Polk State College.
CFHN: What was the impetus to move specifically into ER nursing?
Brown: It was really the only area of nursing that I’ve ever been interested in. It was that or paramedics for me for a long time, but I always kind of figured nursing sounded a little better. I just like the pace of it better. I never even considered any other areas.
CFHN: What are some of the challenges specific to working in an ER environment as opposed to other areas?
Brown: I would say the pace. I work with a couple of people who have come from other places, and that’s always been their biggest challenge, working quickly. You don’t have a lot of time necessarily to stop and think about what you’re going to do next. So I think that has always been the learning curve for people who come from the floor. You have to work faster than you have time to on the floor. You don’t work as broad, either. You must narrow it down to the complaint, and that’s hard for some people to do.
CFHN: How did you prepare yourself for the physical and emotional demands of working in the ER before you started?
Brown: The nursing program at Polk State College did a really good job of that. I run for exercise, but I think I work harder at work than I do when I run. I probably walk more during a work day than I do even on my long runs. You can’t really prepare yourself for it, and that’s one of the things they told us in nursing school. You think you know what it’s going to be until you start working. It’s always completely different than you thought it was going to be. I don’t think I could have prepared myself for it, really.
CFHN: What are some things you do to take care of yourself so that you are up to the task of ER duties?
Brown: I try not to work more than my husband asks me to. It’s tempting to pick up more days because you feel for your team and when they’re hard-pressed, you want to jump in and pick it up, but don’t let yourself get burned out. Take your days off, and take time on your days off to not really do anything in particular but sit around and recover. And hot showers at the end of a shift. Always a hot shower.
CFHN: What are some of the joys that keep you coming back to the ER?
Brown: I love my coworkers. Really sick patients always make me feel like they’re worth being there for. And people who appreciate what you’re doing for them when you’re at work— the patients who really appreciate you, and thank you.
CFHN: Finally, what advice do you have for patients heading to the ER?
Brown: Be patient. I know everyone who comes to the emergency room, their complaint is big to them, but be patient and know that if you wait it’s not because we don’t care about your ailment. Especially in the winter time, it’s busy and it’s hard and a lot goes on that you don’t see. We do care. Everybody cares about you being there. Patience is the only thing I’d have to offer, because that’s the biggest complaint we get. We understand. Bear with us. We don’t want to see you in pain, and we don’t want to see you not feeling well. We’re trying. We promise.