Meritus Medical Center emergency nurses talk about their work

For Sheryl Calhoun and Sarah Thoburn, the one constant of their work is that every shift will be varied and unpredictable. That’s one of the reasons they both love working as nurses in the Emergency Department at Meritus Medical Center.

They also thrive on the adrenaline and fast pace of a continuously changing work environment.

This week is Emergency Nurses’ Week, a time to recognize the skilled nurses who are part of the medical team treating emergency cases at Meritus.

During fiscal year 2019, which is July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, there were 66,618 recorded emergency department visits at Meritus, wrote Joelle Butler, media and communications coordinator for Meritus Health.

The nurses in MMC’s Emergency Department, which is a designated trauma center, wear many hats from providing forensic nursing services, as resources for emergency psychiatric needs and screening for substance abuse in adult patients, Butler wrote.

The ability to deal with a wide range of medical issues requires additional training and certifications. Both Calhoun and Thoburn are registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees and the basic certifications required.

Basic certifications for emergency nursing including advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), basic life support (BLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS).

More advanced and trauma certifications are also available, including emergency nursing pediatric course (ENPC) and certified emergency nurse (CEN).

In addition, there is a rigorous education component for ED nurses, which requires them to keep up-to-date annually on skills and machines they use, Calhoun said.

Calhoun has been an ED nurse at Meritus for 9 1/2 years. She chose emergency nursing because of her interest in trauma nursing.

“Just providing compassionate care to people in crisis, it was just an area I felt called to,” Calhoun said.

Providing empathetic quality care for patients in crisis is something that ED nurses do well.

“When the crisis hits, we all pull together and are on the same page. It’s an interesting place to work, because you never know what’s coming through the door,” Calhoun said.

“You have to be able to multi-task and re-prioritize on a moment-by-moment basis. Most days are not calm.”

Thoburn switched careers and went back to nursing school after being exposed to medical needs in the Dominican Republic where she was teaching.

“I figured ‘How can I meet and educate the most people in their dire need?’ That truly is emergency,” Thoburn said.

And once she got a taste of emergency medicine and the adrenaline rush that comes with it, she was hooked.

“You have to be able to perform well and compassionately and nicely under extreme pressure and stress. And maintain your composure for your patients, patient’s family and for your coworkers,” said Thoburn, who has worked at Meritus for more than 18 months.

The teamwork required for emergency medicine also is important in decompressing after a stressful shift. For Thoburn, being able to lean on friends in the same field who understand what she’s going through is critical to coping.

What keeps Calhoun coming back shift after shift is how she can positively impact a patient’s experience.

“For me, I think at the end of the day, knowing that I’ve made a difference in the life of a patient in a crisis moment in their life,” how they perceive that crisis and how they cope with that crisis is what matters to Calhoun.

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