In my last blog I had mentioned that fate landed me with a job in what was used to be Hamot Medical Center’s emergency room. I still work in the same department, except the hospital is now known as UPMC Hamot.

I had an extensive background in emergency care from working for Emergency Medical Services. So the ER was naturally the next step on my journey into nursing. I was hired as an Emergency Care Assistant (ECA).

I was apprehensive about starting there, especially because the ER was classified as a level two trauma center. There are only three levels and UPMC Hamot’s ER is the highest level trauma center in the tri-state region. Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the closest cities with anything equivalent or higher. What does that mean? It means that all critically injured patients in the area come directly to our ER. We also get many other types of patients as well.

I started in June of 2008 and attended a six-week orientation with an experienced ECA. I learned how to do things like check blood sugars, transport patients for various testing, obtain Electrocardiograms (EKGs) and assist nurses with a wide range of duties. I realized after my orientation that things wouldn’t be quite so difficult after all.

Almost three years later I have acquired a vast amount of knowledge from the different nurses and doctors, as well as some information from the patients themselves. That knowledge has been a great help in my nursing curriculum because I am already very familiar with things that we are learning about in class.

Not only have I learned a lot but I also experienced things that people couldn’t even dream of. If you have seen the television show “ER,” it is in fact pretty realistic. I deal with high stress, life-threatening situations on a daily basis. I have performed CPR, held arteries closed and held broken bones together so that the doctor could put a splint on it.

A lot of people don’t work well in high-stress environments, but personally I prefer it. I have learned over the years that I do my best work (sometimes it’s the only time I work) under pressure. Whether it is a life-threatening situation or just a deadline on a paper or presentation, I jump right into high gear to efficiently complete the task at hand.

My future plans are currently up in the air. Immediately following graduation I would like to work in an ER or an intensive care unit. I would like to continue on for post-baccalaureate education either as an acute care nurse practitioner or in some sort of administrative degree.

My plans for right now are to study for the three finals that I have next week. And good luck to you as your finals approach.