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Tales from the ER: Nurses see lots of tragedies, deaths

By Anonymous Nurse | Posted - Mar 4th, 2013 @ 9:25am

SALT LAKE CITY — Nurses make up the largest work force of people in the United States. There are more nurses than anything else, yet there is still a huge national shortage that is projected to increase over the next decade. Even though we are part of the largest work force in the U.S., nurses are truly a special breed of people. Not just anyone can or even wants to do what we do on a daily basis.

I have been thanked many times by patients and/or family members for doing a job they would not be willing to do themselves. I have also been asked many times how I am able to do this job, seeing all the death and hardships that people and families have to endure.

The truth is, nurses are not immune to the emotional effects of tragic events that befall people and their families. Many times it affects the nurses almost as much as the patient and families.

I have witnessed some incredibly sad and tragic events that happened years ago that I still think about often with perfect clarity. I am constantly reminded of how fragile and unpredictable life can be. One minute you are driving down the road with your family and everything is great, the next minute your life is changed forever. It has helped me love and appreciate my family more and be thankful for the things we have, such as our health and the time we have to spend together.

I have seen little babies die from tragic accidents such as drowning and falling. I have seen teenagers succumb to the temptations of drugs and lose their lives because of it. I have witnessed the tragedy of depression and social hardships in the young and old and how it drives them to take their own lives. No matter what a person says, these types of events stick with you. I have witnessed many colleagues shed meaningful tears after failing to save someone’s life and the emotional hardships it puts on them.

I have not been immune to the emotional tragedies as I have also shed tears in hurt and sorrow for the things that I see. My heart goes out to the family and, even though I know we did everything we could and for some people it is just their time to go, there is a sense of failure that we couldn’t do more to save that person’s life.

Luckily, for me these types of things don’t happen every time I work. I am also blessed to work with the best crew of people I could ever ask for. The amount of help that is provided from every level and discipline is tremendous. We are a large emergency department but everyone knows their role and is willing to help where needed.

We have amazing nurses, techs, physicians, unit secretaries, social workers and ancillary staff (such as all the people in X-ray, CT and MRI). All work together to make sure we are doing the best we can for the patient. It is nice to know we can share these tragic events with each other and support one another through these tough times.

Nurses truly are a special breed of people. I have been spit upon, vomited and urinated on in multiple occasions and have had to change my clothes because I have had large amounts of blood splattered on me (including my socks being drenched with blood, that’s one reason why we have a washer and dryer in the ER).

We have the ability to scoop up poop in a bed or give an enema and then two minutes later go in the break room and eat our lunch (you should hear some of my dinner discussions at home. My wife has long ago stopped asking me how work was that day during dinner time).

Some nurses love pus (you know who you are), especially from big, stinky abscesses, and others (like me) love to see gnarled hands and fingers that were caught in table saws or snow blowers (please, never stick your hand in the snow blower to fix a clog, use a stick). Don’t call us weird or crazy; just be thankful there are people out there who love to do it so you don’t have to.

These articles are intended for entertainment purposes, to shed light on the life inside an Emergency Room and not to be used in place of a doctor's care or advice.

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