What does it take to be an emergency nurse?

Nicole Schiever, nurse director of AdventHealth Hinsdale's emergency department, summed up the typical state of her work environment in two words: organized chaos.

"It's kind of like having a bunch of boiling pots on the stove and making sure they all stay on simmer and don't boil over," Schiever said.

"There are ebbs and flows and a lot of prioritizing, getting things done in a very timely manner all while trying to make sure our service is being delivered at a level that our patients expect."

Oct. 12 is National Emergency Nurses Day to acknowledge the difficult work these professionals perform day in and day out to address people's serious health needs.

Time to reflect for nurses is often a luxury.

"You don't really get a chance to take a step back and appreciate the work that we do," she said.

Schiever cherishes the sporadic opportunities to have extended conversations with patients and is touched when people express their gratitude or send over treats.

"It is a very rewarding job," she said. "We're just doing our job taking care of patients the way we would like to be taken care of."

Multi-tasking, flexibility, adaptability and critical thinking are important traits for the position, Schiever related. But so is being a team player and knowing one's limitations "so you know when to ask for help."

And don't forget a sense of humor.

"The camaraderie on my team (of nurses) is important and is what gets us through," she said.

Schiever, who's been a nurse for 18 years and in Hinsdale for four, confessed she once didn't think she had the right makeup for the career.

"I actually never thought I could be an emergency department nurse," she related.

But the ability to put distressed patients at ease struck a chord.

"I put a sign up in my office: 'Remember why you started,' " Schiever said. "I think there are times we lose sight of why we went into nursing."

The worst stretches of the pandemic pushed many nurses to their breaking point, compelling them to leave the field. The void has to be refilled.

"We weren't able to have patient's families there, so there was an additional level of stress making sure patients knew that they were cared for," Schiever said.

Mental health support for nurses has become an area of emphasis.

"You have to have healthy staff in order for them to take care of patients," she said. "It's about having relationships and letting our staff know it's OK to come and talk to us about the things they're going through."

Schiever enjoys welcoming new nurses onto the floor and witnessing their development. The ED can be a hectic place, and Schiever said a little kindness from everybody can go a long way in volatile situations.

"My team is incredible. They are selfless and they go above and beyond," she said. "We come to work every day because we want to take care of people."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean