Hershaw Davis, Jr. Talks About Emergency Nursing

Hershaw Davis, Jr. Talks About Emergency Nursing

Early in Hershaw Davis Jr.’s career, an assignment to work as a floater in the emergency department changed his entire nursing career outcome. Now Davis MSN, RN, an emergency nurse at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and clinical faculty in the Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, is an established emergency nurse and says his career is an ideal fit.headshot of Hershaw Davis Jr. for emergency nursing

This week’s celebration of Emergency Nurses Week strikes a chord with Davis, who is also the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Emergency Nurses Association. He has found a meaningful career in emergency nursing and is committed to helping the next generation of nurses succeed.

Early on, though, nursing could have passed Davis by. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says, “and didn’t see many male role models in nursing.” At the suggestion of a friend’s mother, he became a Certified Nursing Assistant and that’s where he first worked in the ED. “One day, they floated me to the emergency department and that’s all she wrote,” he says. “It was my speed and challenging and interesting. It was something that can keep me interested for long periods of time.”

Davis followed that by enrolling in an EMT program and then becoming an ER technician in a community hospital. Nursing school was followed by a nurse residency at Johns Hopkins’s emergency department which gave him the foundation he needed, the trauma center experience he wanted, and the opportunity to work in the community where he grew up.

As Davis progressed through his career a couple of things became obvious–his commitment to helping and serving his hometown community and the importance of mentoring the next generation of nurses through sharing his expertise, while teaching and guiding them.

Davis currently practices and teaches which, he says, gives him a needed balance of clinical practice, working with student nurses and peer faculty, and making an impact on the industry at a local and international level (thanks to Johns Hopkins’s global reach).  “I am blessed to see both worlds,” he says. “It gives me a wide variety of experiences and helps me give back to the state and city I grew up in.”

The emergency department at Johns Hopkins, all 10,000 square feet of it, is exceptionally busy and includes urgent care, triage, and one of only two Level 1 trauma units in the state. “When someone hears the name of my emergency department, they say, ‘Oh, God bless you,'” he says with a laugh.

Despite the hectic days, Davis says the pace is what keeps him so passionate about his role.

“You walk into the ED and you never know what you are going to get,” he says. For me going to work, it’s like being a medical detective.” Davis says emergency nursing requires top-notch assessment skills, a great deal of flexibility, and a collaborative approach with all the disciplines involved in patient care. “I meet a lot of people, and I work with phenomenal colleagues,” he says. “You just form a connection.” And at Johns Hopkins, he is in the heart of an academic medical institution, so there is a constant flow of new research to learn about as well.

With his teaching role, Davis trains a lot of students, some of whom go on to work with him as nurses. The circular nature of that role is inspiring and gives Davis pause. “One day, it will be time for me to lay down my stethoscope, and they will take over,” he says of the nursing students. “Hopefully, they will have learned what I have imparted to them.”

Throughout his career, Davis says he was often the only Black male nurse present at a meeting or taking care of a patient. Diversity is a pressing issue in nursing, but it takes more than policy to make a change, he says. “It’s one thing to say you want diversity,” he says, “but people need to see a living, breathing example of it. I am straight from East Baltimore. They see me and they know they can do it too.” But to get there, you need to be able to open doors and take a seat when decisions are being made. Davis helps educate younger nurses about what’s needed to change outcomes, to influence their career trajectory, and show them what they can accomplish.

And while Davis acknowledges that progress around diversity in nursing is slow, the fact that conversations about it are even happening shows forward momentum. “What people don’t realize about diversity is you can’t force change,” he says. “That’s what keeps me committed to this work. It’s about the next generation.”

As an emergency nurse, Davis says his involvement in the Emergency Nurses Association has made a big difference. At the annual conference, he builds his network, and he remains constantly inspired by seeing all the different things nurses do and that they excel at. “It helps you refocus why you do what you do,” he says. “Your work isn’t contained to a hospital or even to a community. It lets you know you are part of something bigger.”

ENA-backed Legislation Focuses on Mental Health Treatment in EDs

ENA-backed Legislation Focuses on Mental Health Treatment in EDs

In the U.S, increased diagnoses of mental health issues and insufficient treatment places have resulted in many people turning to emergency departments for help. Unfortunately, this trend causes increased boarding times, ED overcrowding, and challenges for ED staff.

The increase in youth suffering from mental health issues is evident in a CDC survey. Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts by youth aged 12 to 17 increased by 39 percent from February through March 2021, compared with the same time in the same period in 2019.

On April 27, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., introduced the Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act (S. 1346). Supporting mental health treatment, decreasing boarding time, and addressing overcrowding are all priority issues for the Emergency Nurses Association. A similar bill is awaiting introduction in the House of Representatives.

“Many of the challenges facing emergency departments today can be directly linked to the need to improve care for behavioral health patients,” says ENA President Terry Foster, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, CCRN, TCRN, FAEN. “A lack of resources and treatment options often leaves individuals struggling with their mental health in the ED for extended periods, which leads to overcrowding and, frequently, acts of violence against health care workers.”


ENA President Terry Foster, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, CCRN, TCRN, FAEN

ENA research has shown the average ED stay for mental health patients is 18 hours compared to four hours for all other types of patients.

This proposed legislation would provide resources for EDs through a competitive grant program, allowing them to adopt more collaborative and connected care models to connect behavioral health patients with appropriate resources in their communities. It also aims to increase access to inpatient beds and alternative care settings, which will help alleviate boarding in emergency departments. Recognizing that all EDs are unique, this program would allow each ED to design solutions that will work best for them.

“The passage of this legislation could go a long way in reducing that wait time and providing a significant opportunity to establish a more collaborative approach to comprehensive mental health treatment options,” Foster says.

Emergency Nurses: Steady in Chaos

Emergency Nurses: Steady in Chaos

Nurses are lauded for their calm and focused manner when everything around them is erupting, but emergency nurses bring this laser focus to their jobs every day. Emergency Nurses Week (October 9-15) calls attention to this specialty as a career and to express gratitude for nurses working in emergency departments nationwide.

Emergency nursing is, by design, performed quickly and carefully to help patients who may be experiencing a life-threatening trauma or even those who visit the emergency department for a routine health issue. Nurses who work in this environment need rapid-fire assessment skills to help prioritize critical cases, particularly those where an obvious cause of the issue isn’t present. This particular work may not be something every nurse enjoys or thrives in, but for those who do, it’s particularly satisfying.

Emergency nurses work within a specialty, but that specialty encompasses nearly every possible area of nursing. Because anyone can come to the emergency department with virtually any symptom, and they depend on the medical team to treat even symptoms that are vague, emergency nurses have to know about many conditions, symptoms, medications, and injuries. They might, in a typical day, treat an infant or a 90-year-old, see multiple victims of a car crash or a worker who fell from a ladder, encounter someone with pregnancy complications or a person having an undetermined medication reaction. Emergency nurses frequently help patients who are in a psychiatric crisis as well. And many patients who come to the emergency department are stressed and agitated so emergency nurses must develop an approach toward patients that is both compassionate and in control.

If that sounds like an appealing challenge, then emergency nursing might be a terrific career path. After academic preparation, emergency nurses should gain myriad skills by working on different units. They should try to work with patients of all ages and with different health conditions to build a good foundation of skills from which to draw when needed in any given situation. Talk with emergency nurses to ask questions and look into the Emergency Nurses Association for resources about this field.

Gaining more experience will be a benefit–both because it helps nurses decide if this career path fits their interests and skills and because it will build the skills they need to help others. They will need to know how to treat catastrophic injuries or a heart attack one day and a person experiencing intense pain with no apparent cause the next, so an emergency nurse’s critical thinking skills must be sharp as they will need to triage patients constantly and in accordance with changing conditions.

After being in the field, gaining emergency nursing certification through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing will equip you with the additional knowledge needed to be a leader in emergency nursing. Although it is recommended that nurses who sit for the certification exam have two years of emergency nursing experience, it’s not a requirement; however, experience boosts your ability to pass and score well on the exam. And be sure to take the practice exams online as part of your study and preparation schedule as it will help you become familiar with the process and the types of questions.

And if you’re already an emergency nurse who is helping patients every day, thank you for all you do! Take some time this week to reflect on the people you help and the lives you have touched–and even how each of those people have touched your life as well.

Honoring Emergency Nurses

Honoring Emergency Nurses

As Emergency Nurses Week kicks off on October 11, emergency nurses around the world are reflecting on a year that has been like nothing many of them have ever seen. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in all corners of the world, emergency nurses continue to see influxes of patients that max out resources and energy.  Despite the grinding stress and challenging work conditions, emergency nurses never waver in offering professional and compassionate care to their patients.

Sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association, which marks its 50th anniversary in 2020, the week’s theme is Heart of Gold. The organization is dedicated to supporting emergency nurses and advancing this specialty. Particularly during this time, the ENA is focused on providing resources and COVID-19-specific information for nurses as well.

The emergency nurse’s specialty has been front and center in 2020, with stories and images from the frontlines of emergency treatment highlighting a powerful story of workers who continue to put their own lives at risk to save others. Nurses have supported each other throughout the months, traveling to high-impact areas as backup help is needed.

Round-the-clock shifts and the severity of illness nurses have seen this year have taken a physical and mental toll. And with a potential second surge looming over the winter months, nurses are stressed and trying to figure out how to manage boundaries between providing care and caring for themselves. This week is a good time to give them extra support and show them how much you appreciate their work and their commitment. If you’re an emergency nurse, being aware of your own response to the pandemic is important. When you’re in the middle of it, it all you can do to treat patients, but when you are able, paying attention to your sleep, nutrition, and mental health will be critical to being able to provide the best possible care.

If you’re a student nurse or even a veteran nurse who has been motivated to pursue this career path, there’s no question that your days will be varied and busy. Because they see patients of all ages, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, from every socioeconomic standing, and with complex conditions, emergency nurses use all their skills and are learning new skills all the time.

If you are wondering if you’d make a good emergency nurse, there are a few things to consider.  This career is especially suited for people who are able to focus in the middle of chaotic situations, who think quickly on their feet, and who rely on their evidence-based practices and instincts to work quickly and accurately.

Emergency nurses need certification and will want to continue with their education throughout their career. Because evidence-based practices change frequently and emergency nurses treat so many different cases, staying current on treatment of the conditions especially prevalent in your population is a good idea.

Help celebrate emergency nurses this week with #ENWeek and #HeartofGold in your social posts, writing to your legislators to support emergency workers, and offering a thank you for what they do.

Four Ways Emergency Nurses Get Empowered

Four Ways Emergency Nurses Get Empowered

For this year’s Emergency Nurses Week, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) focuses on nurses being “EmpowerED” and what that means for each nurse.

As an emergency nurse, being empowered in your role and in your career can look different for each nurse. During Emergency Nurses Week (October 7-13) condsider some ways you feel “EmpowerED.”

1. Education

Some nurses want to learn more about particular conditions or situations they see routinely. A busy urban ED will see fairly different visits from an ED in a farming community. Learning how to best treat patients with the more common injuries and conditions can help your performance and care. Sometimes, it’s just being continually prepared for the things you never expect to see. If something is going to happen, it will happen in the ED and you won’t have notice. Learning how to stay agile and use your critical thinking skills in high-pressure situations is essential.

2. Teamwork

Other nurses might find working on teamwork skills is an important way to feel empowered in their careers and their daily roles. In an emergency department, teamwork truly is life-or-death. Teams that work seamlessly will have more potential for better results. They will also have more resources to lean on when they lose a patient or when injuries are overwhelming. Like any skill, teamwork takes practice, study, and repetition. If you feel your collaborative skills could use a boost, learning more will only make you a better nurse.

3. Leadership

For other emergency nurses, becoming empowered might mean taking on more leadership responsibilities and roles. As you become more familiar with the workings of your own department, you might find you have ideas to make the department work better and be more effective. Maybe you have already implemented some actions that have turned out with positive results. Becoming empowered for you might encompass making a difference in your department and which can have an immediate and long-lasting impact on patient care.

4. Advocacy

Emergency nurses aren’t always in the unit. They can become powerful and persistent advocates for nurses and patients. They can speak out on issues like nurse bullying, violence in the workplace, safety concerns, and push to make changes for the better. Emergency nurses can take action and connect with government officials. They can use their voices to let them know of issues that could improve patient outcomes like improved hygiene processes, more detailed paperwork processing, increased medication checks, or training new nurses on staff.

If you’re an emergency nurse, what makes you feel empowered?