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Tales from the ER: Nurses are patient advocates

By Anonymous Nurse | Posted - Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 11:31am



SALT LAKE CITY — Nurses save lives. There is no doubt about it. Everyone who comes to the ER comes to see the physician but many times fails to recognize how much the nurse is working on their behalf on the outside. We nurses are the ones working behind the scenes with the doctor asking them what we are doing with this patient or that, making sure all the X-rays and blood work have been done and completed, asking if the patients can be updated on what is going on, or give them the results of the tests they are waiting for. We work hard to get you out as fast as we can, and we don’t like you being in the ER longer than you have to.

We are also the ones that are constantly updating the physician on your status. Updates like whether you are feeling better, worse, if you want to leave now, or whether or not we can wet your mouth with that precious, yet limited supply of water we seem to have in the ER (I promise when we say you can’t eat or drink anything it is not because we want to torture you, there really is a reason).

Nurses are the bridge between you and the physician. I have often thought about writing a little sign that says, “don’t worry, I will explain when he leaves, just nod your head up and down” and hold it above the physician so the patient can read it as he is saying something like, “well your lab tests show a high white blood cell count which supports the patchy infiltrates seen on your X-ray in the right lower lobe of your lung which probably represents pneumonia considering you have been febrile and dyspneic. I do want to get a CT of the chest with IV contrast just to make sure we don’t have any other patchy infiltrates, pleural effusions, or severe atelectasis.”


Physicians are so emerged in medicine that they sometimes forget that not everyone speaks their language. That is where nurses step in.

See, physicians are so emerged in medicine that they sometimes forget that not everyone speaks their language. That is where we step in. We are the bridge between you and the physician. We will sit down with you and explain, in simple terms, what he/she just told you. “It looks like you have pneumonia, which makes sense because you have had troubling breathing and a fever, and your white blood cell count suggests there is an infection going on somewhere in your body. A CT scan will give us greater detail of your lungs to make sure there isn’t something worse going on.” See, that makes sense, right?

Don’t get me wrong. Our physicians are amazing and I would not hesitate to allow each of them to take care of me or any of my family members. Their training is intense and unique and they are very good at what they do but sometimes they don’t speak everyone else’s language.

It is not uncommon for a physician to ask a nurse what they think or what we should do with a patient. In almost every cardiac arrest situation, the physician will ask anybody for any additional ideas or interventions that could help or possible causes of the cardiac arrest. They value our opinion because they know we are good at our job and are advocates for the patient.

The nurse-physician relationship is a unique one. Several decades ago, the medical profession was dominated by male doctors and female nurses. While there are still predominately more male doctors and female nurses, these stereotypes have changed dramatically. It is not uncommon now to have a female doctor and male nurse. I have been told by many patients and their family members how neat it is to have a female doctor and male nurse.

Nurses are taught throughout nursing school that we are an advocate of the patient. This means we look out for you, protect you from any unnecessary or invasive procedures or tests, and listen to your needs, wants and concerns. You may not realize how often a nurse has looked out for you by double or triple-checking medications, making sure the procedure you are getting is the right one or if it is even necessary, and making sure you don’t spend more time in the ER than you need to. Next time you see a nurse (or a firefighter or a police officer, for that matter), thank them for what they do.

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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