Job Title: Critical Care / Emergency Registered Nurse
Type of Company: I work in the recovery room of a magnet-designated hospital in suburban Philadelphia.
Education: AS, Science, Philadelphia Community College (Philadelphia, PA) diploma, Nursing (RN), Episcopal Hospital School of Nursing (Philadelphia, PA) RN to BSN, Kaplan University (online)
Previous Experience: I started in 1980 as a registered nurse in a cardiac surgery unit and later worked in a surgical trauma ICU in a level 1 trauma center in a busy Philadelphia hospital. Nowadays I work in a level 2 trauma center emergency room and the recovery room in a large magnet-designated hospital.
Job Tasks: The requirement for my job is basically life support. We receive patients from the operating room, and help them wake up and recover from different types of surgeries. People have different responses to surgeries and anesthesia. Some people wake up without any problems but some people have trouble waking up after surgery. We monitor them to ensure that their breathing, blood pressure and heart rate stay within the normal range.
There is a protocol for life support similar to CPR, but it's called Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). We have protocols for blood pressure support, air way management and support. It is critical that every registered nurse be highly trained in life support and management.
One aspect of my job that some people don't realize is the level of respect an RN gets from her patients. Most patients literally place their lives in our hands. If you think about it, nurses are complete strangers to their patients, who have little choice but to rely on them. To me, trust is the most important part of the "nurse-patient" relationship. Comments I get from patients are that I have "a calming way" about me. Pain is a major post-operative issue for most patients, though some more than others. The one thing I can always promise my patients is that I can "get their pain under control." This is possible because our anesthesiologists provide our orders and pain management. The narcotics we use for pain management can cause side effects, so we monitor patients for vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygenation). If necessary, we treat. Once a patient is stable and pain-free, we transfer him to the post-operative side to be discharged or admitted to the hospital for further observation.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are the fact that patients trust me with their lives, even though I'm a complete stranger. Also the hours. In the recovery room, we work Monday through Friday. We take call (weekend or holiday work) about every 5 to 6 weeks. Holiday call is about once a year. There are often others who are willing to take my call.
What I don't like sometimes is the level of responsibility involved with my job. We balance life and death sometimes on a shoestring. The stress level is high about 90% of the time.
Job Tips: Take your liberal arts classes before your nursing classes. It makes nursing school a bit easier.
When you have electives to take, take business classes because they help you do a better job and be a better professional. You'll be a better RN, but with the business background you will be a better manager and possibly administrator.
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