Emergency room (ER) nurses may be the first health-care professionals to
treat a sick person. They typically do a diagnosis, start treatment and conduct
"Someone comes to the emergency room with dizziness. By asking a few pointed
questions, I have to determine to the best of my ability if the origin could
be the heart," says Deborah Willard. She is an ER nurse.
"This is called triage. You can bet that if you go to the ER with a sore
finger, you may wind up waiting a long time. The sicker people are going to
be seen first," says Willard. She also gives medications, starts intravenous
units, draws blood and conducts electrocardiograms.
Nursing has its hazards. There's a risk in dealing with infectious diseases
such as hepatitis and AIDS. Nurses must observe rigid guidelines to guard
against dangers like radiation, sterilization chemicals and anesthetics. They
also face back injury when moving patients, shocks from electrical equipment
and hazards posed by compressed gases.
"But don't worry if you can't stand the sight of blood," says Willard.
"Neither could I at first!"
Working hours can vary significantly. Night and weekend work is common
for ER nurses. So is being on call.