My 24 hours as an A&E student nurse

Im coming to the end of my nurse training. With only 6 shifts left to go i was concerned that i was still lacking some critical skills needed so i decided to take on a few shifts on Accident & Emergency in the trauma department.

I honestly feel in the past 24 hours i have learnt so much so i thought i would share with you my experience of working in a major trauma unit.

Day one was a shock to the system, i arrived at 7 am and the ambulance bay was flooded with patients, both on trolleys and queuing up the corridor. Despite the nurses and doctors working tirelessly to keep up the demand was just too much. One of the nurses told me this was not a busy day but a normal morning in the department.

Within the first three hours i had seen broken bones, asthma attacks, overdosed patients, car crash patients, you name it i saw it. Then at 10 Am the trauma phone rang.

I was absolutely not prepared for what i was seeing being wrote down as the nurse took handover. We were expecting a patient being flown by helicopter who had just jumped in front of a train. The trauma team were bleeped and within minutes i was surrounded by consultants, doctors, anaesthetists, Operating department practitioners and a whole bunch of other staff.

The patient was wheeled into the trauma bay and the trauma coordinator took her place at the foot of the bed. Paramedics began handing the patient over to the team as he was being cannulated, bleeding being stemmed, drugs being administered, getting hooked up to all kinds of monitors. Blood gases were being taken, blood sugars were being monitored.

I was completely in AWE of these people, they worked quickly using all the knowledge they had developed over the years to try and stabilise the patient. There was no panic, and communication was second to none.

I honestly have never seen anything like it, the team work was incredible and made me proud to be working with such an incredible team of people. Even though this patient was critical the consultants were quick to take me under their wing, educating me on why they were doing what they were and asking me questions. The learning opportunities are just fantastic.

Patient stabilised and the phone goes again, the staff wash their hands, and prepare to take handover again after one hour of stabilising the patient we have a cardiac arrest being wheeled through the corridor. One paramedic on top of the patient doing chest compressions and the other giving oxygen. I was more shocked seeing this than anything. Having only ever done training on dummies i was yet to take part in any CPR.

Well that changed very quickly. The team encouraged me to take over from the paramedic and all of a sudden there i was doing chest compressions on a patient. A real person. It was nothing like what we are taught in uni. I didn’t realise how deep 2/3rds of the chest is or how i would feel in that moment. I was very sad afterwards and i will never ever forget that moment. It was hard.

But no time to dwell, the trauma phone had gone again and this time it was another suicide attempt. This time it was a jump from 35ft, unbelievably the person was awake as they were being brought through to trauma. The doctors quickly realised the patient had no feeling below the chest and proceeded to get him scanned. A clean fracture of the spine, irreparable. Maybe not a life lost but certainly a life changed. This person also had a haemothorax and needed a chest drain immediately.

The local anaesthetics were prepared, administered and suddenly there were instruments opening up the patient in order to get a drain in. I nearly fainted.

Onto the next day it was pretty much repeat. We were expecting 16 ambulances inbound by 8 am along with a few more trauma calls to throw in the mix. Its no wonder nurses burn out so much.

I honestly have so much respect for A & E staff, literally every person in that department played a fantastic role. Their communication skills were super human as were their skills. I learnt more in 24 hours in one building than i feel i have learnt in three years.

Well done to all the first line responders out there, the paramedics, the nurses, everyone. Truly amazing people!


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Im a mum, a Nurse, and nearly a Wife. I love makeup, Wine, Chocolate, Cooking, Singing really loud, bubble baths and binge watching rubbish on the box

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