Day in the Life: A&E Nurse Posted on May 12, 2013 by Vicki Parker 8am It’s Tuesday morning, and Emma Parker, Staff Nurse at Eastbourne District General Hospital, has just clocked in for another busy shift. A Brighton University graduate, Emma, 25, jumped straight into her role with enthusiasm and agreed to speak with me after 4 years in the job. A 3 day week- Emma works twelve hour shifts, with little rest, flitting between day and night shifts, weekends and twilights. After clocking in, she starts on the list of jobs: handover from the night shift, cleaning trolleys, stocking up Re-suss, checking drugs and seeing to patients. “I like the variety of the job, there’s always a new challenge. You get to see different people, different cultures”. She added, “It’s interesting to see how the human body works, but it’s a people pleasing job, you want to get people through it. You never know what will come until you start.” 10:30am Constantly on the move, Emma watches over the patients in her care. Broken bone, heart attack, burn, stabbing- she deals with it all, moving between departments- attend her own patients in Minors, cover someone’s break in Triage, change a dressing on the Herstmonceux Ward, cover another break on Majors, then back over to Minors to tend to her own patients. Staffing is a constant issue in A&E: “We should have 10 trained staff including a coordinator, but on an average shift we have about 8 trained staff”. Agency staff are a luxury rarely afforded to the department and even with A&E bragging a full list of staff to call on, budget restraints is a major concern for the department. Minor’s is short staffed so an agency nurse is called in to help- it’s needed. Then a young man comes into A&E and starts acting out. He keeps getting out of his bed, running around in and out of other patients cubicles, then sits on the floor smacking his head against the wall. In a 12 hour shift, Emma has no set break. Just 15 minutes in the morning and half an hour for lunch, then it’s back to work. “It’s not long, there’s about enough time to shovel a sandwich down my neck and boil the kettle. I can have a sip of tea and burn my tongue before my break is over.” 12pm An elderly woman with dementia is being treated. Her teeth have to be removed to stop her from biting staff but she still manages to ‘gum’ Emma- covering her arm with saliva. Abuse of staff is an everyday occurrence in A&E. “I frequently get kicked by patients and get my bum pinched by elderly men. There’s a lack of respect for what we do but I don’t let it put me off the job. You have to accept it comes with the job”. Suddenly, a man is brought in with a nicked ventricle- he has been stabbed in the heart. Not everyone can be helped. An alcoholic is trying to climb off his trolley to go for a cigarette and spits on Emma as she helps him. Verbal abuse is regular occurrence. “I get a lot of people yelling and swearing at me, I hear “I pay your wages” a lot from people”. She expects it of the job now. A man who came in after being arrested by police, should have been restrained for treatment. He wasn’t. Emma gets elbowed in the eye by the man. 4:45pm Another patient arrives: an 18 month old with burns to his face and chest after he knocked over a fresh cup of coffee. “You learn to check your emotions at the door”. Budget issues are an issue for the department where between 32 patient beds, there exists only one drip counter to process medication properly, funding for full staff is not enough and much of the equipment used is old or broken. Staff sickness is another issue for nurses in the department to face, “there are more off on sick leave now than last year”; most of whom will not be replaced by agency staff. 7pm It’s late, a tiring shift, but there is still work to be done and patients waiting to be seen: They have to be assessed and put into the waiting room before being seen. Emma changes a dressing, plasters a broken leg, then suchers a woman’s head after she fell off a commode. She needed 12 stitches. The woman’s family need to be called and transport home organised, then it’s on with more patients: a male casterisation, putting an arm in a sling and treating an infected cut. 8pm “I could be working a day shift one day then a night the next. It’s quite exhausting and really messes up the body clock.” It’s time to clock out, then straight home for dinner and get an early night ready for tomorrow.