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Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD


A cardiac nurse describes a typical day at the hospital

A typical nurse?
I wish!

The day begins with morning report, in which the nurse working the preceding shift synopsizes the patients she is transferring to me. A typical assignment is four patients, but the exact number varies inversely with the complexity of their cases. Following that, I check their charted vital signs (pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature) in addition to monitoring their cardiac rhythm. Next, I determine what orders and lab tests are pending for my patients before seeing them to perform individual assessments.

While making my rounds, I use a PDA to see what medications are prescribed, and then administer them at the times indicated. If tests were ordered, I ascertain that the necessary paperwork was completed. As lab test results become available during my shift, I analyze them for any abnormalities that must be immediately relayed to a physician. I speak with family members who call regarding the status of their loved one, always bearing in mind the HIPAA laws regarding patient confidentiality. I assist patients moving to and from the bathroom. I consider whether my patients might benefit from physical therapy. I monitor their food and fluid intake, and investigate what factors might account for any abnormalities noted therein. I assess if the patient is able to care for himself at home or has adequate support to comply with the prescribed diet, medications, and adjunctive therapies. If I think that a patient might not receive optimal care, I request that the attending physician order a social work consultation. As the day progresses, I chart details pertaining to my patients and finally present a detailed report to the nurse working the oncoming shift.

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If you're a nurse and want to tell others what you do in the course of your work, send your description to Dr. Pezzi and he will publish it on this site (and perhaps elsewhere). Mention whether you wish to be named or anonymous. If you'd like to send your picture to be posted along with your narrative, Dr. Pezzi will explain how to submit it.

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