Grit, Passion and Persistence: Celebrating Emergency Nurses Week in 2021

Detailing a typical day in the life of an emergency nurse is a difficult task. Each hour and every shift is different. The high-pressure job requires the ability to pivot from treatment for the most routine of medical conditions to immediate actions in response to critical health concerns.

Each year, there are approximately 80,000 visits to Albany Med’s Emergency Department. Albany Med is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region and the Massry Family Children’s Emergency Center is the only stand-alone pediatric emergency center in the region.

Emergency Nurses Week, held annually in October, recognizes the compassion, dedication and determination shown by emergency nurses each day to ensure positive health outcomes for their patients.

An opportunity to help in the worst of times

A trip to the emergency room can be unnerving for a patient and their family. Sometimes, the trip can a matter of life and death. It’s a responsibility that’s not lost on Albany Med’s emergency nursing staff.

“We have the opportunity to become a very personal part of a stranger’s life,” said Patty Meo, nurse manager. “We all realize what a unique situation that is and how blessed we are to be able to play that role.”

“You get to spend time with people who are having the worst day, and you get to help them, be with them and to try to make things better,” said Jason Deuel, an emergency nurse who has been at Albany Med for 10 years.

In the most difficult of times, watching a patient pull through and have a positive outcome makes all the difference.

“It gives you hope and makes you want to keep going for the next time,” says Katie Gould, nurse in the adult emergency department.

'We come here for the kids'

Ryan Kaim is a registered nurse in the pediatric emergency department. She started at Albany Med roughly 15 years before that in a different position but left to take a job outside of the organization.

Kaim came back to Albany Med in March of 2020 and is part of a close-knit team that works nights.

What keeps her and her co-workers coming into work every day, even through adversity?

“It’s because we absolutely love these children,” Kaim says. “We look at every single child that comes through these doors, and we think, ‘What if this was my child?’”

Kaim has no shortage of stories from her time in the pediatric ER. One involved a young child brought in by his mom because he wasn’t taking his antibiotic medications. Kaim quickly learned it was going to take some persuasion to get him to cooperate.

After some negotiation, Kaim got the boy to agree to take his medications in exchange for more than one popsicle (terms of the agreement were not disclosed). As part of the deal, the boy had to keep taking his medications, or mom was going to return the popsicles to Kaim.

“You have to be creative,” Kaim says, noting the importance of making that connection with a child.

Jack of all trades

Deuel started in the floating pool and his first choice wasn’t to work in emergency medicine. He came around to the experience, saying that it gives him a chance to help with such a wide range of medical issues facing patients.

“I’ve found it to be the most practical type of medicine I’ve been involved in,” Deuel says. “You get to see a turnaround in your patient as you work to get them better.”

Jolene Foley started in the medical field as an assistant in a doctor’s office. She’s been in the adult emergency department at Albany Med for over five years now.

“I like the fast-paced environment and not knowing what’s going to happen next,” she says.

'We care deeply'

In stressful and emergency situations it’s difficult to keep your head about you. Emergency nurses have a mindset about them to persevere.

“You can’t look at someone and be frustrated,” Gould says. “You have to keep going.”

Though the interactions can be brief, emergency nurses are invested in more than just the patient’s visit to the emergency room. They treat patients with their long-term health in mind.

“We care a lot,” Meo says. “We care deeply. It’s part of what we do.”

It’s a character trait that carries through to both adult and pediatric emergency nurses.

“We are an advocate when it comes to medical decisions,” Kaim says. “That carries through to conversations with parents, doctors and even other nurses throughout Albany Med.”

Working as one

A common theme among emergency nurses is a commitment and a bond with their colleagues.

“The teamwork in this department is something I’ve never experienced before,” said adult emergency nurse Jess Paskowski.

“Next to caring for the patients, my coworkers are a main reason I am here,” Gould says. “None of us work alone.”

For Meo, that togetherness is a selling point when she is interviewing candidates for a position.

“I tell them that if it’s a fit, they will be part of the best family in this hospital,” Meo says.

That sense of family is so important to Kaim, who says she knows she can turn to her emergency nursing colleagues and friends when she feels the impacts of personal or professional stress in her life.

“The first people I call when I am going through something is them.”

Emergency nurse positions are currently available at Albany Med. To learn more, visit Albany Med Careers.