Nursing: Accident and Emergency

The drama of the A&E room is just one aspect of the role.

The Accident and Emergency department at Salford Royal Hospital is nothing like the television series Casualty or ER, says staff nurse Sarah Cottam. “It’s nowhere near as glamorous,” she laughs. “But I love it. I love the fast pace of it and I love the diversity of the work. One minute you might get someone who’s banged their toe, so you can put a plaster on it and send them on their way, then the next you get someone who’s had anasthma attack and needs referring on. Then there’s the patients who need life saving procedures, for example, in the case of a cardiac arrest.”

Cottam decided to give up her job as a civil servant and become a nurse in her late twenties. “I liked the idea of patient contact and the opportunity to make a difference,” she says. Cottam also welcomed the huge changes that have taken place in adult nursing in the last decade or so. There are, for instance, a far wider set of roles you can go into – among them nurse consultants, nurse specialists and modern matrons. Environments are more diverse too, with some nurses working in hospitals, while others work in the community or in teaching. As nurses have increasingly taken on responsibilities such as prescribing, they have become far more influential and empowering wherever they work. Cottam’s diploma in adult nursing took three challenging years, but she was surprised to find it wasn’t as academic as she’d anticipated. “I’d say the emphasis was on the practical training, with the academic side of things existing as a foundation.

In many ways, the training is there to give you a snapshot of different areas of nursing and practise the skills you’re taught in each of them – you work in surgery, medicine, specialised surgery, geriatrics, intensive care, and accident and emergency, among others.”

In March 2005, when Cottam graduated, she took a job in an intensive care unit. “I picked it because of the challenge,” she says. “It’s hands-on clinical work, so it gives you a really good start in a nursing career. In fact, they like having newly qualified people because of that.” In the two-and-a-half years she worked there, Cottam admits there were some heartbreaking moments. “You’d get a lot of young adults coming in and it was very sad. But my role was very much about taking a family approach, listening to and supporting them, as well as explaining what was going on. When people got better, that was the pay-off. Nursing an individual back to a point where they could regain their independence was very special. You knew you’d made a huge difference to that person and their family.”

Eight months ago, Cottam felt ready to move roles and she joined the accident and emergency department. “I felt I wanted to further develop my skills and here you’re at the front line, dealing with minor injuries through to resuscitation,” she says.

The new four-hour target means there’s a lot of pressure on medical staff to get people treated or referred on in record time, she says. “That can be hard because there’s not always a steady flow. One minute your department can be empty and the next, you have 15 ambulances you have to react to. You might not have enough beds and it can be really difficult. But you find ways round it and manage to help people recover.” While Cottam may sometimes be called on to do high-tech clinical procedures, other times it’s her empathy and sensitivity that’s required. “One lady was brought in who’d recently lost her husband. She’d had a fall and broken her arm and hurt her nose. She was upset. She always used to hold her husband’s hand and when she went out without him for the first time after his death, she fell over. She had a cry and I listened to her. She just needed some time and reassurance and she wrote a thank you card to me for being there.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?