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Differences in Working Emergency Department & Regular Floor
The hospital emergency room is the 24-hour body repair shop. It never
shuts down, and you never know exactly what you will see, or how busy you
may be. The emergency room is the specialty in nursing that encompasses
care for patients of all ages, and all conditions. From delivering babies and
providing resuscitation to trauma patients, the pace of working in the
emergency room can often change minute to minute.
Is Working in the Emergency Department Right for You?
If you enjoy complexity, there is no question, emergency nursing has it.
Some determining factors to decide if the emergency room is the right
choice for you:
Ability to shift gears and accelerate your pace as needed
Good observation, assessment, and prioritization skills
Good interpersonal and customer service skills
Good personal coping skills
Assertive patient advocate
Ability to maintain calm amidst chaos
Good sense of humor
Ability to think fast and on your feet
Related: Balancing Family and Career
Where do Emergency Nurses practice?
Hospital emergency departments
Schools of nursing/universities/colleges
Emergent care centers
Flight nursing in helicopters/airplanes
Poison control centers
Crisis intervention centers
Federal and state governmental agencies
Can New Graduates work in the Emergency Department?
The short answer is yes. It is not the easiest job for a recent graduate,
however on a positive side; you would get a world of experience. If you
decide to select emergency room work right out of school, be sure to select
a hospital that has a formal orientation or internship program. Ideally the
facility would be more of an on the job training, rather than having you work
from day one. Some of the benefits you would gain from working in the
emergency department are:
Critical care experience. You will gain the knowledge and skills
necessary for life and death resuscitation scenarios.
Experience in a medical and surgical environment. This will help you
learn to prioritize activities and manage multiple patients
Experience in a step-down or intermediate care unit will give you an
opportunity to firmly ground your nursing knowledge and skills and
help you when you do get an emergency nursing position.
Related: Survival Tips for Night Shift Nurses
Steps to prepare you for your first Emergency Nursing Position
Join the ENA, Emergency Nurses Association, and be sure to study all
information on the website.
Attend any emergency nursing conferences that are available to
Take special classes in Advanced Cardiac Life Support & Pediatric
Working a Regular Floor in a Hospital
Working on a regular hospital floor varies, depending on what floor you are
working on. If it is a floor other than ICU, the night shift in particular can be
less demanding at times. A regular floor does not generally work at the
super fast pace of the emergency department, however, that too can vary
depending on patient load. Your day is more planned out on a regular floor,
and you can usually stick to more of a schedule. You may have the same
patient for more than one day, unlike in the emergency department.
Working on a regular floor is much more routine than working in the
Choice of Work Areas
If you are afforded the right to select where you can work, consider the
Emergency Room Advantages
Fast Paced - makes the shift go by quickly
Variety - different patients daily, sometimes hourly
Never routine - Each day and often each hour brings on a new
condition or situation
You will encounter some unusual situations that you may never be
exposed to working in another area.
You will learn to work in a critical environment, and improve your skills
to react quickly.
Emergency Room Disadvantages
Very demanding - you are often working in an extremely stressful
Must make critical judgment calls, with no time to second guess or
research your decision
No routine - you will encounter a very different working scenario on a
No quiet time - unlike other less busy floors, the night shift is often the
busiest in the emergency room, and it's difficult to complete
Regular Floor Advantages
More often than not, you have time to spend with your patients, and
get to know them; many are there for more than a day or two.
You have more time to prepare the paperwork
Routine, if you like a more predictable environment, you may want to
choose working on a regular floor over an emergency department
Less hectic, a regular floor is less fast paced, and far less hectic than
the emergency department, most of the time.
Regular Floor Disadvantages
If you enjoy variety, you may feel that a regular floor is a little too
routine for your preference
Slower paced environment may make for time to appear to move
slower. A 12 hour shift can seem like it lasts for 24 hours.
Routine, most regular hospital floors are fairly routine, and if you
prefer variety, the routine may seem boring.
Regardless of what area you work in, nursing is a demanding job that entails
the responsibility of saving lives on a daily basis. Your personality, and work
style preference should help determine what area you are best suited for. It
may be beneficial to work as a PRN nurse in the beginning to allow yourself
time to work in different areas. You can then determine which area seems
the better fit for you. Working in the Emergency Department at least a few
shifts would be a good idea, as you will get some valuable experience in
critical situations. Some hospital Human Resource departments offer
assessments to help you decide which area you may do better working in,
however, there are online assessments as well that can help you decide for
When selecting your area of choice to practice your nursing skills, consider
where you will do the most good, and where you feel you will be more
comfortable. It’s important that you feel at ease with your job, so give
yourself time to make the best decision. In the event it does not work out,
most of the time nurses are allowed to transfer positions after a certain
period of time.
Related: International Nurses Association - What's Your Superpower? Tshirt
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