For most of us, July means barbeque, days at the pool, trips to the beach, and vacation with friends and family. For many of us, July has an entirely different meaning. If you are working in an academic medical center, July can only mean one thing…new residents.
Now, don’t get me wrong. All of us in the emergency department make mistakes. In July, however, we are filling an even more important role. As an emergency nurse, we are often the last stop between a mistake and a patient. In the ED we function as a team, and all members of that multidisciplinary team should always be looking out for each other, identifying potential safety concerns, and working together to provide safe care to our patients and families. In July, the first year resident becomes the newest member of our team. And we know our newest team members may not have any idea what it’s like to be a member of our team.
We are the constant in the ED. We walk into work in July with years of experience, depth and breadth of knowledge, and confidence that it’s not our first “rodeo”. It’s our job to help orient the newest members of our team. We question orders that may not be in the best interest of the patient, while gently teaching the resident that it’s OK to ask us questions if they are unsure about something. We walk into an exam room pushing the EKG machine with an IV tray on top and before the resident has completed their H&P, we have the patient packaged and ready for the cath lab. We share what we saw, felt, and anticipated about this patient with the resident and let them know “you will be able to spot a STEMI a mile away too”. We walk with our new colleague into the quiet room to let a family know we were unable to save their loved one. We stand as their wingman as they struggle to get those painful words out. And we offer them encouragement and support while reassuring them “it doesn’t really get any easier, but I am here if you want to talk”.
In short, we continue to work together to provide the safest care possible. When we model team behaviors, support each other, and offer encouragement, the culture of the department changes and the team becomes exceptional. Care is safer, and we rest easier at night knowing we made a difference in the lives of our patients and their families. July is an opportunity to remember how important each and every one of us is as a member of a multidisciplinary ED team.