I am participating in the ACLS Scholarship for Healthcare Providers to help cover tuition costs towards a BSN degree. I have been an RN for 21 years and have worked entirely in the field of maternal/child care. A Bachelor’s degree will allow me to provide a higher quality of care to my patients and make more valuable contributions as a member of the healthcare team.
Providing emergency care is one of the more stressful moments of being a healthcare provider. It is a moment in which a life hangs in the balance and one’s actions have the potential to change the outcome. It is natural to feel nervous when one is beginning a healthcare career. What can we do to prepare and provide the best possible emergency care when it is called for? Know, prepare, and assess.
What do I need to know to be prepared to provide emergency care? I need to keep emergency care training current. Even though I have taken both BLS and ACLS many times during my nursing career there have been changes throughout the years and those changes are taught in the certification courses. When working with children in an acute care setting, PALS certification may be required. When as a new nurse I was nervous I would not remember what to do I would carry around with me a BLS and ACLS or PALS cheat sheet and review it whenever I could. That helped me to feel more confident about being able to provide emergency care when needed.
It is also important to know the protocols of the facility where I work and how to initiate the emergency response system. I make sure to review emergency protocols and familiarize myself with the communication systems that are used to call for assistance in an emergency.
How do I prepare? I prepare for each patient by ensuring that all emergency equipment is present and in working order. Emergency equipment checks are an important part of being prepared. In emergency situations preparation makes the process much smoother and allows me to focus on taking care of my patient. When working with pediatric patients in an acute care setting, additional preparations are needed. Working with children is very different from working with adults. With children it is important to calculate medications based on the patient’s age and weight. To be prepared it is standard to calculate and display the patient’s appropriate doses of emergency medications. This makes medication preparation safer and more efficient in the event of an emergency.
When orienting to a new setting I believe it is important to familiarize myself with the type of emergency equipment that is in use and its location. I also prepare by understanding the different roles within an emergency response team. When an emergency occurs, the entire team responds but each team member must understand each individual role that needs to be filled and be prepared to fill it. Emergency responses and protocols vary by setting and facility, and being prepared means being familiar with those protocols.
Assessment is an important part of emergency care. Assessment is informed by health history, current health status, and physical evaluation. In my current position, women have just given birth and the circumstances of their labor and birth experience affect their risk. A thorough assessment is an important part of emergency care because it establishes the patient’s baseline and identifies the issues that can potentially contribute to an emergency. Identifying a patient’s risk factors will guide interventions to prevent an emergency or identify a possible cause. Patients should be informed about their risks and instructed about what symptoms to report promptly.
One of the more difficult things to overcome when providing emergency care is the awareness of the life hanging in the balance. The weight of the responsibility can feel overwhelming and cause a variety of emotions. Emergency care can be an emotionally intense experience. I have always found it helpful to channel my energy into focusing on the care I need to be providing and my role within the emergency response team. By being aware of the feelings that may potentially arise and cause us to lose focus we are better prepared to recognize them when they happen and re-focus without letting them overwhelm us. Once the emergency is over, we can find a safe place and allow the emotions to be expressed.
To be prepared to provide BLS, ACLS, or PALS there are several steps I take. Know the current recommended procedure. Find a review method that works and review it frequently until it is learned. Be prepared with the proper equipment. It should be present and easily accessible. Verify that all equipment is functional by testing it every day or shift. Know facility protocols. Assess the patients. Perform thorough physical assessments and medical history. Educate patients about their risks and what symptoms should be reported immediately. Expect emotional intensity. Use other emotional situations to learn to focus emotional energy into action. Find safe outlets for emotions or stress. Preparation is the key to optimal performance.