Finding Humor in the ED

AnnMarie Papa and Terry Foster

It might seem superfluous to remind a crowded ballroom full of Emergency Nursing 2019 attendees that the work emergency nurses do is life changing. And yet, sometimes that is exactly what is necessary.

Terry Foster, a clinical care nurse specialist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Kentucky, and AnnMarie Papa, vice president and chief nursing officer at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery in East Norriton Township, Pennsylvania, offered several reminders in last week’s Edutainment luncheon session, titled “The Many ‘Sides’ of Emergency Nursing.”

The duo kept the crowd laughing, kicking things off with a sing-along to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s “Side by Side.”

Despite the merriment, the underlying message was serious. Emergency nurses change lives.

“There is no substitute for emergency department nurses, or nurses in general,” Foster said.

Unfortunately, hospitals aren’t seeing as much of the career ED nurses, who dedicate 20, 30 or 40 years to the specialty. The average tenure, Foster said, is now just three to five years.

It’s a tough job, and Foster and Papa said it’s vital that ED nurses take care of each other like family. And through it all, it’s important to find the humor.

“Every nurse I know has said, ‘You can’t make this stuff up,’” Foster said. “Every nurse I know has said, ‘We should write a book.’”

Whether it’s helping patients to remove zucchinis from parts of the body that shouldn’t have encountered a squash in the first place or playing referee between a patient’s wife and the behavioral health patient who climbed into the hospital bed next to the patient, you’ve got to be able to appreciate the humor while handling the situation.

“Be careful, obviously,” Papa said, meaning there are times when it’s OK to laugh and times when it’s not. “But humor is good for the soul.”

And if you’ve had a difficult day, or week or season, it’s crucial to lean on your coworkers and to talk about it when you can. At the end of the day, Foster added, all emergency nurses are a family.

“ENA — and I’m not being hokey — is the biggest family I’ve ever belonged to in my life,” he said. “OK, I’m being a little hokey. But it’s true.”