Happy Emergency Nurses Week!




I was raised by a nurse. My mother, while not an emergency department nurse, was an early telemetry nurse. I remember seeing her carrying around books with rhythm strips, trying to familiarize her with various normal and abnormal patterns. That, ironically, became part and parcel of my life as an emergency physician.

When I was in college, I worked as a cast tech and scribe (before there were such things) for Dr. Earle Foster, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery. This was in the practice known then as (let me clear my throat and practice the way I answered the phone: ‘Scott, Craythorne, Lowe, Mullen, Foster, Hegg, Carr and Thomspon…how can I help you!’ In that capacity I was ancillary to the wonderful nursing staff who taught me so much. In particular, like a private who one day becomes a company commander, I learned about medicine from the ground up.

Over the 29 years of my career (not counting residency) I have worked in many facilities. I have worked with such wonderful nurses across the country and have made great friendships and connections. When I say I appreciate emergency nurses, I do mean all of you.

This week hospitals are celebrating Emergency Nurses Week. As well they should. The last few years have been daunting for nurses. SARS-Co-V-2, or Covid, beat everyone up. If anyone deserves to claim the the diagnosis of PTSD, it’s the nurses who fought the fight of ‘the Rona.’ That wretched disease took nurses from us in death and in burnout and in firing over vaccines. It took nurses from us who were tired of what they perceived as misuse and underpayment and then went a’traveling. And it also left a lot of nurses, still there, powering through every day with the kind of determination and compassion you can only find in that incredible group.

As I have written ad nauseum, our emergency departments are 1) carrying the weight of about 50% of all American healthcare, 2) overwhelmed with growing numbers of sick, dying, mentally ill and addicted patients and 3) running out of rooms, resources and medications at an alarming rate. But in the midst of it, our nurses are there.

They show up, exhausted from the last shift, sometimes having dealt with their own sick kids or spouses at home, eyes red, Starbucks in hand, fast-food tucked under the desk and hit the ground running. They may see the elderly patient waiting days to be admitted, or the psychiatric patient who asks them the same question every 15 minutes for a solid week. They will see the cardiac arrest and hold the family member after having just pushed medications and done CPR. They will, sometimes, take a long walk outside or just cry over the loss, then come right back for another round.

They manage chaos and do it with kindness.

They deal with doctors. God knows that’s a burden in itself. (Speaking as one of course.)

And we all owe them a debt of inestimable thanks. Without them, well, without them is not even a thing we should consider.

Happy week friends! Thanks for all you do.

Edwin Leap, MD


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