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Lessons from the Unit

We all like a leader that has a calming effect on patients and staff.

Have you ever gone to work, looked at the assignment sheet and took a big sigh of relief? The person in charge either just made your day seem easier-or not!  

We've all been there. I work in the emergency department as a staff nurse and the ever changing atmosphere is one of my favorite things about the ED. My theory is that the day is going to be full of ongoing drama and it all depends on whatever EMS has responded to or whoever walks in with anything from a simple pediatric case of ear pain to a dissecting aortic aneurysm. Therefore, my first priority is to see who my charge nurse is for the day because when things go terribly wrong, and they most likely will, we all like a leader that has a calming effect on patients and staff.

My career started out some 27-years-ago on a medical surgical floor.  A nursing professor that I admired a great deal told me that if I was "going to be any kind of nurse at all" I needed to start out on a medical surgical unit, get organized, and if I survived all of that, I could do anything in nursing.  She was right. For me, the nursing profession has presented great opportunities.  I have worked in hospitals in Labor and Delivery.  I have worked in office settings as an administrator and as an educator.  And I have spent time as an agency/travel nurse.  

However, I have to say my love is the emergency room.  And yes, I am one of those corny nurses that when asked why I became a nurse, I can still say it was because I wanted to help people;  that is probably the reason I like the ED the most.  There is always someone to help and for the most part, I can help them get better.  Except for Emerson.

Have you ever met someone who just has a way of making everyone else around them feel calm?  A person who is a joy to be around, and rock solid spiritually?  Emerson was one of those people.  Emerson was a co-worker of mine, and we worked in the emergency room together.  He was a great nurse, and I loved working when he was in charge.  His calm, collected presence made everyone else relax.  He was not only grounded in his professional life, but in his spiritual life as well. When he received a diagnosis of a disease with a grim prognosis, it was immediately evident that Christ was his anchor.  

As an outreach project for the youth group at our church, I helped them put together a collection of encouraging Bible verses and devotions for Emerson.  The idea was to give him something tangible that he could take to doctor visits and chemotherapy treatments which could help him focus on his power source, Jesus, instead of becoming overwhelmed by the difficult journey ahead.

Emerson has since gone to be with Jesus, but during those dark moments, he expressed that the little scrapbook of encouragement meant a lot to him.  Emerson and that scrapbook were the inspiration for my book, God Opened the Gate for me: A Go-To Portable Prayer Room by Victoria Brescham.

No matter where you work as a nurse, the work, though rewarding, is always emotionally draining.  By the mere nature of the profession, there are days where you will have given every ounce of compassion that your body contains and your tank will be empty.  I wrote this book to provide people with an  in flight fuel hook up."  You have 30 minutes (if that!) to take a break and refuel and that is what this book is about.  Hopefully, it can take you away and provide some peace on a hectic day.  It tells of stories that you can share with patients and others that may bring comfort in difficult times.

If I learned anything from Emerson, it was the importance of the unit.  He would always say-"Now ladies we can get a lot more done together than separately - now let's dig in" The "unit" was all of the staff working together on a particular shift.  The unit had to function cohesively. When it got rough in the trench you had to have each other's backs. That was what made the unit work-helping each other-no man left behind.

I'm grateful for the lessons Emerson taught me by example. I was not able to make him better physically, but I could encourage him through a difficult tour. Our profession tends to revolve around maintaining our skills and completing so many CEU's. Sometimes the person next to you in the trench is your best continuing ed.

 Paige Cartledge is an ED nurse in North Carolina. She also writes under the name Victoria Breschan. She is a founding member of The Barnabas Club, a group of prayer warriors who are focused on uplifting the spiritual and physical needs within the church body and local community

 


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