Celebrating Emergency Nurses Week

Dynamic. Dedicated. Determined. These are just a few of the words Christine Pakish, MSN, RN, uses to describe the emergency nursing team at Albany Medical Center. As the assistant vice president of Emergency and Trauma Services, Pakish oversees a team of about 100 nurses—a close-knit group that cares for 80,000 Emergency Department (ED) patients a year.

“Our patients can present at any time with any condition. Our nurses can handle any challenge that comes to them, and they have a great sense of morale,” Pakish said. “They work very well as a unit, and they’re always willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

These nurses are at the front line for the most critically sick and injured patients in our region. Albany Medical Center is the busiest Level 1 Trauma Center in the state and the only one in northeastern New York. In April, it was verified as a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center—the highest designation a hospital can attain after a rigorous review by the American College of Surgeons. Albany Medical Center’s emergency services also include those of the Massry Family Children’s Emergency Center, the only one of its kind in the area.

When a patient arrives at the ED, whether via ambulance, helicopter, or on foot, they are immediately evaluated for the level of care they need. Many times, life-saving intervention is the next step. Any patient, at any time, with any condition may turn to the ED. Emergency nurses are highly skilled and must be trained in various specialties. When they arrive for their shift, they receive their assignment. From there, they expect—and embrace—the unexpected.

“Our nurses must be skilled in a wide range of areas to evaluate, treat, and stabilize our patients,” said Pakish, who has worked in emergency medicine for nearly 30 years. “They must also navigate a fast-paced environment. An ambulance may arrive with a cardiac arrest one minute, a helicopter may land with a trauma patient the next, and then a car accident comes over the radio. A day in the life of an emergency nurse is coming into an unexpected environment and an ever-changing dynamic.”

ED nurses define grace under intense circumstances.

“I work well under pressure,” said emergency nurse Fate Micarsos, RN, BSN. “I can maintain a level head when urgent needs arise. I love working in a fast-paced environment and can stay in control. And the ED is certainly a place to exercise those skills.”

Colin Dalton, RN, is an emergency nurse who works the night shift. He became a nurse simply because he wanted to help people.

“Everyone, no matter how sick, injured, or broken, deserves compassion and care no matter what cards they were dealt in life,” he said. “My favorite part about being a nurse is being able to make a difference in someone’s life on their worst day.”

Each October, this team is honored as part of Emergency Nurses Week, recognizing the dedication, compassion, and strength that emergency nurses display especially in the most challenging times. Wednesday, Oct. 11 is Emergency Nurses Day; and this year’s theme for the day is “Calling all Superheroes.” This is a special theme for Pakish, who describes her nursing colleagues as superheroes.

“What makes us superheroes is what we can do, what decisions we can make in a split second and know what we can do to take care of that patient and get them treated,” she said. “We don’t call for outside help. We don’t look for somebody from the outside to rescue us. It’s like a firefighter. We’re first in the building while everybody’s running out. People look to us during what can be the most frightful point of their life and they look at us to save them, to comfort them, or even to hold their hand. Not everyone can say that.”

Paris Jarrell, RN, BSN, who works the night shift in the pediatric emergency department, added, “We are superheroes because of our willingness to do whatever needs to be done for our patients, at any hour of the day, any day of the week. No, we don’t swing from rooftop to rooftop or climb up tall buildings, but we save lives. Our patients and their families trust our hands to save and change the lives of their loved ones, and we summon the strength to do that on every shift. While we may be seen as superheroes, it is also important for everyone to remember that we are still human. Ours is one of the most rewarding jobs.”

Are you interested in joining this team? Learn more about nursing opportunities at Albany Medical Center.