Health Care

ER nurses: A special breed

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ER nurses make it their personal mission to help others in crisis.

Nurses are the faces you’ll likely remember most from an ER visit. They are the caregivers, the comforters, the cool and confident professionals who help us cross the bridge from crisis to healing. Working in urgent and unsure circumstances, ER nurses are a special breed, and they need to be.

While it is not uncommon for patients to move seamlessly from the ER to other areas of the health care network, some ER nurses in particular are content to stay along the frontlines of patient care.

“I’ve been in nursing for eight years, most of it in ER, and all at AdventHealth Orlando,” said Shelby Mills, senior nurse manager at AdventHealth Orlando Emergency Department. “We see and experience a lot in ER, and it’s my preference. I like the action and activity -- accidents, stroke victims, cardiac arrest -- something’s always happening here.”

Mills has had many roles in the AdventHealth emergency room environment, which she considers some of the most challenging and exhilarating times of her nursing career. Beyond the excitement and urgency of ER, the veteran ER nurse sees the value in her work as a tangible advancement of her deep-seated dedication to nursing.

“My personal mission is to help others when they are at their worst,” Mills said. “We see this daily in the ER when people typically come to us for immediate care or as a last resort. They arrive in a state of crisis, scared and looking for answers, and they look to us for guidance and critical care.”

And she is not alone. A member of Mills’ team, Josh Stephens, has worked for two years as a registered nurse in AdventHealth Orlando ER. He says the energy in the ER keeps him going.

“I like the fast pace,” said Stephens. “It’s like drawing a card from a deck – you don’t know what’s coming next.”

Stephens puts his role as an ER nurse in perspective as it relates to his patients, most of whom are not there by choice.

“Nobody ever starts their story about their best day ever in the emergency department,” he said. “Patients often come in at their worst after days of trying to avoid an ER visit. So, I try my best to acknowledge and honor the trust each patient puts in us when they come to us for care. I also enjoy using my skills and clinical knowledge to find a cause for the patient's illness. It can be like being a detective.”

Hyman Jonas Suarez, assistant nurse manager at AdventHealth DeLand, chose to be an ER nurse right out of college. That was a decade ago, and the enthusiasm for ER nursing still goes strong.

“I love being one of the first ones to see and treat patients, the first ones to make them feel cared for and safe in the ER,” he said. “Nothing beats the feeling of stabilizing a patient and see their relief as they start to feel better and realize they are in good hands.”

The daily uncertainty of the emergency room environment, and the opportunity to provide healing and comfort, keeps ER team members motivated to serve, even during hectic times. Mills said some of her favorite aspects of her role are getting to work with a close-knit team of like-minded nurses and health care leaders.

“We get to learn together, grow together and save lives,” Mills said. “It’s a high stress position, and it can be emotionally draining, but that’s why we are trained.”

Like many nurses, Mills finds immediate emotional support among her colleagues who form the unit that serves AdventHealth Orlando ER. As an urban hospital, there are rarely slow days or nights, and the team forms a network of visible and experiential support that boosts confidence and grows competence with each patient.

“The emotions are endless and make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster most days,” Mills said. “But those days when you can see the difference you make in the lives of an injured and frightened patient or family member are the days that make this all worthwhile.

“People count on us to stay calm and take care of them when they are in crisis,” Mills said. “It’s not always easy, but it’s not supposed to be. We’re all human, and there are times when it can be overwhelming for the nurses, too. The work never stops.”

Suarez accentuates the spiritual aspects of the ER nursing role as it relates to AdventHealth’s mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ.

“Christ healed people by spreading love around,” he said. “That's what I feel I do. From my coworkers to my patients, I feel like I extend the same love and care that Christ did during his time on earth. Love is the best medicine in the world.”

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