‘I was terrified at first!’
To celebrate Emergency Nurses Day, which takes place on 14 October, we’re showcasing emergency nurses from across the state to learn what it’s like working in this fast-paced, demanding specialty.
Today, Logan Hospital’s Acting Nurse Unit Manager Muireann Wynne shares how she ended up in emergency nursing and what it’s been like managing the department during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muireann hails from the emerald isle (Ireland), where nursing placement is done differently to Australia. After graduating and following a six-month rotation in both medical and surgical wards, nursing graduates are then placed in any available position. ‘You’re not given a choice about where you work – you just hit the ground running,’ Muireann said. ‘But because entry-level jobs are hard to come by, you’re just happy to have one.’ And Muireann’s first post was in an emergency department.
‘I was terrified at first. It’s such a high-octane environment. But after a few weeks I loved it.’ And fifteen years later, Muireann is still working in emergency.
‘It’s a very supportive environment and in Ireland, you are able to do things such as plastering and suturing, medications and blood tests.’
Muireann moved to Australia at the end of 2012 to work as a registered nurse at Logan Hospital. After a period of adjusting to the way things work in Australia, she assumed the role of Acting Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) in 2019 after working as a Clinical Facilitator and Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC).
Then, the arrival of COVID changed everything for the close-knit team. ‘The simple scrum to focus on what you’re doing has had to completely change. Same for the way we deliver education – it’s very different doing it online and you miss that face-to-face engagement and everything that comes with it.’
‘It’s been pretty challenging, but I feel supported by the grade 7 team, CNCs and education teams.’
Muireann said one of the highlights of the pandemic was the rapid response by both staff and the community when establishing the Logan Hospital pop-up testing clinic following the revelation of three confirmed cases in the area.
‘We already had a screening clinic but the demand for community testing couldn’t be met, so we had to set up an additional pop-up clinic on-site. It was challenging but amazing to see all these people come together: they set up tents, made the Wi-Fi work, IT came and set up whole systems and laptops, and the executive team were out there in high-vis vests - even directing traffic.’
‘It was all hands-on deck and it was so interesting and amazing to meet teams I never knew existed, but they came and made it work. We went from nothing to a fully functioning clinic in a matter of hours – it was unbelievable, and we were all in it together.’
Muireann was still there at 8 pm later that day and people were still arriving and waiting to be tested. People were so supportive; COVID has really changed the attitude of the community towards what we do,’ Muireann said.
With a lot of conversations now focused around “what next” and “the new normal”, what does Muireann think will change about emergency nursing?
‘That’s a tough question. Some of what we’re doing better because of COVID needs to stay, such as PPE, how we wash our hands, how we approach patients with different multi-resistant organisms (MROs) and the level of alert for asking certain types of questions and screening – that should stay.’
Not surprisingly, Muireann would also like to see emergency nursing scope of practice broadened, knowing the contribution they make in Ireland. ‘Moving forward, I would like to see emergency nurses have a greater scope’.
And Muireann has already got the ball rolling at Logan. For example, work is underway for nurses to perform ultrasound guided cannulation. ‘This is really important after hours – to ensure there is no delay to treatment for something as simple as a cannula.’
Muireann also hopes the level of appreciation and understanding in the community remains. ‘We’ve had more compliments than complaints. The food parcels and thank you cards have been a real morale booster. Even though we were in this hectic space and really stressed, these things made us smile - to know people were really thankful.’
‘It was a whole community movement.’
Pictured above: Acting Nurse Unit Manager, Muireann Wynne .