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.”

Emergency Nurses Week in a Continuing Pandemic

Emergency Nurses Week in a Continuing Pandemic

October 10 kicks of a celebration of the work emergency nurses do with Emergency Nurses Week. In the past year and a half, emergency nurses have faced a pandemic and the overwhelming care needs of a staggering patient load. Frequently, emergency nurses are the initial care provider for people who have COVID-19 symptoms, and they have taken on a care caseload filled with some of the sickest patients these nurses have ever encountered.

Emergency nurses are needed more than ever. As pandemic cases continue to rise and fall and as patients who put off needed care are presenting with even more advanced needs, emergency nurses are in perpetual demand.

As the need for their skills rises, emergency nurses are especially prone to exhaustion and burnout. Taking care of themselves becomes a low priority when the demands of the job are so high, so continual, and so overwhelming. If running to the bathroom is considered a break, how can emergency nurses be expected to keep up the pace?

And while there’s no magic potion to improve the work balance (let alone a work-life balance), nurses can be aware of doing whatever they can to make life any easier right now. And remembering that eventually, this impossible time will pass.

Take Shortcuts

With an unrelenting job, nurses need to let themselves take shortcuts when they can. Buying premade meals or getting groceries delivered saves time and effort that are in short supply. The shortcut doesn’t have to lead to unhealthy choices. Focus on foods that give you the biggest nutritional bang for the buck. Prepared salads, cooked veggies, chopped fruit, and grilled meats are great choices. And when you’re too tired to even think about eating, a comforting soup–pureed or hearty–with bread and cheese will fill you up and nourish you.

Get Help

Asking for help is often a nurse’s Achilles heel. After giving so much care, nurses are reluctant to admit they need some help. Whether it’s childcare, elder care, transportation, or mental health care,  a little assistance can make your life easier–and that can make the world of difference. Even connecting with other nurses through an organization like the Emergency Nurses Association can give you the support you’re seeking.

Find the Joy

For many nurses, there’s been less joy this year. As waves of patients remain high, the emotional toll on nurses and healthcare workers is evident. Keep yourself going by finding the small joys in your day. A great playlist, a funny podcast, a movie that lets you escape (even if it takes five sessions to watch because you keep falling asleep), or even the softest socks that soothe your aching feet at the end of the day are good choices. Bonus points if it requires no extra effort and double bonus points if it’s something you can look forward to.

During Emergency Nurses Week, honor those who work in this demanding specialty. And if you are an emergency nurse, thank you for all you are doing!



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?

Emergency Nurses Week Highlights Essential Role

Emergency Nurses Week Highlights Essential Role

Emergency Nurses Week kicks off today and offers a reflection of the lifesaving efforts and skill of emergency nurses who are called on to deal with catastrophic conditions, both natural and human-created, with little or no notice.

Karen Wiley MSN, RN, CEN, and president of the Emergency Nurses Association, says recent events highlight the unpredictability of the job and the exceptional need for emergency nurses.

“I am most proud of the way our nurses have come together in the past several weeks,” she says. “With the devastation from multiple hurricanes and the unconscionable event in Las Vegas, we have seen countless acts of sacrifice, selflessness, and dedication in emergency care from our nurses. I am proud of my colleagues every day, but the effort I have seen through these tragedies is truly remarkable.”

Wiley says emergency nursing is a complex role that involves treating the physical reasons for the visit, but also careful and expert communication with the team and the patient, families, and loved ones. “Most people do not realize the diversity of work emergency nurses must perform besides treating physical injuries,” she says. “Patients enter emergency departments struggling with addiction, mental health issues, as victims of sex trafficking, and, all too often, are violent themselves.”

If nurses are considering moving into emergency nursing or are wondering if the path would be right for them, Wiley says it helps to consider the range of what nurses encounter on a given day. “Thinking quickly on your feet is an essential skill for emergency nurses,” she says. “Situations change in a moment in the emergency department and nurses must react effectively.”

In the midst of an environment where many things are happening simultaneously, emergency nurses are still in charge of the patient’s comprehensive needs. “Emergency nurses must keep patient advocacy foremost at all times,” says Wiley. “The care, safety, support, and education of patients is our primary focus and dominant concern during a shift in an emergency department.”

Because they will take care of patients with many different conditions and situations, emergency nurses have to stay current on the latest medical information, so they have to be willing and able to constantly reeducate themselves about new developments, treatments, and methodologies. Emergency nurses continuously hone their craft, says Wiley, and that means being able to multitask effectively, efficiently, and accurately in a high-stress situation.

Emergency nursing is physically taxing, but it can also be an emotional challenge as well. Because of the very nature of an emergency room, patients don’t always survive despite the heroic efforts to save them. “Emergency nurses need to be prepared for the death of patients while not letting emotions affect their care,” says Wiley. Many hospitals have supports for their emergency room teams, especially after a trauma event, but the day-to-day exposure to death is something emergency nurses must cope with for their own job performance and their own mental health.

In addition to the challenges of treating so many physical and mental health issues, emergency nurses have to be able to quickly decipher and assess patients’ needs and conditions. “Choosing which patients need the most immediate care is challenging because the number of factors that need to be taken into consideration,” says Wiley.

For some nurses, the emergency room is where they perform best. And the ability to make such deep connections during that time is powerful. “Caring for patients who are in the most vulnerable state of their lives is an absolute privilege and an honor,” says Wiley. “The ability to comfort the patients and their loved ones when they need it most is humbling.”