ER nurses honored this week

Published 5:41 am Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Staff
Beaufort County ER nurses talk about their profession
Staff Writer
Emergency room nurses are being honored this week. Unfortunately, these men and women have very little time to celebrate.
The Emergency Nurses Association, a national association of nursing professionals, declares this week Emergency Nurses Week. Emergency Nurse Manager Leanne Fulcher gave each nurse a pair of scissors, said Registered Nurse Beth O’Kane, who has worked in the emergency room in Beaufort County for three years.
The job isn’t easy, Fulcher said. “They work long shifts and deal with difficult situations. I’m very proud of them.”
Shifts last 12 hours and nurses grab meals when they can, O’Kane said. She estimated that they see about 30 to 40 patients during one shift, and even more on nights and weekends. Sunday is the busiest day.
The job is not for everyone and some don’t make it. To work in emergency, a nurse has to already have one year of prior experience as a nurse. “You have to have a strong personality.” The ER nurses are the “team leaders” of the hospital.
At Beaufort County Hospital, most nurses in emergency range in age from 30 to 40 years old. “You have to have a lot of energy and there’s a lot of physical work. … You’re constantly on your feet,” O’Kane said.
Registered Nurse Shirley Mayo has worked for 31 years in the ER at Beaufort County Hospital, the longest of any of the nurses.
Mayo is the “Mother Hen” to all the other nurses, O’Kane said. “She oversees everything. We love her.”
Mayo graduated from Beaufort County Community College in 1974, started working and when back to get her bachelor’s degree, which she earned from East Carolina University in 1996.
O’Kane is in the process of getting her bachelor’s degree online through East Carolina University. The hospital pays her tuition.
Death is a large part of an ER nurse’s job. Patients with chronic illnesses come into the emergency room on a regular basis. “You do get attached. When you do all you can and they don’t make it, it hurts. A little part of your family has gone,” Mayo said.
The nurses do get upset. Talking to each other is important, O’Kane said. “You don’t want to take it home.”
And then there’s the joy of saving a life. It’s uplifting when you can go to the family and say ‘your family member is now stable and doing well,” Mayo said. “It means our work has been successful.”
If it snows, Mayo says staying home is not an option. “They will send a jeep to get me.”
Mayo plans to stay an emergency room nurse until she retires. “Beaufort County Hospital has always been good to me. It’s a part of my family.”