Emergency Room Essentials

I know what you’re thinking – there’s no such thing as a “typical” day in the ED. In fact, the only thing you can rely on is that your day will be unpredictable. As a nurse intern in a busy adult ED, I have quickly figured out which items are essential during my shift, and which ones I really do not need. I do not currently work in a trauma center–we see most of the city’s STEMI’s, CVA’s, and transplant patients. We also see minor fractures, lacerations, dislocations, etc.

Our ED is divided into “Stations,” and each station has somewhat of a different category of patients. The “front rooms” are the most critical, we have a special room for eye trauma, and we have about 40 beds.

My job as a student intern involves shadowing/helping an Emergency Room RN. I’ve gotten to the point now where I am a helpful partner to my preceptor. When we get a new patient, I know exactly what my role is!

My first day, I showed up with a pocket full of extra supplies that only weighed me down throughout the day. I’ve narrowed down my everyday essentials to just 7 items!

  1. Stethoscope. My beautiful Littman III Classic in matte black is my closest friend in the ED. When assessing ABC’s, lung sounds can give you a clue as to what someone’s respiratory status is. It also isn’t uncommon to uncover distant heart sounds indicating cardiac tamponade.
  2. Retractable badge Sharpie. This is my second most used item! It takes out the possibility of setting your pen/marker down somewhere and losing it forever. I use it to label lines, specimen tags, patient belongings, sign EMS handoff, write down vitals on my glove, and the list goes on.
  3. Pen light. Neuro checks are important for ANY type of patient. If a patient comes in with a sprained ankle, I still do a neuro check. No matter what the patient tells you, they could be making something up because they don’t remember what happened. I also use my pen light for Foley placements and quick airway checks.
  4. Trauma shears. Mine can cut through thick leather! Although we are not a trauma center, I have still cut my fair share of clothing. It is also useful for cutting tape, medication packaging, and during wound care.
  5. Saline flushes. Not something you bring from home, but I always grab a handful at the beginning of my shift. You’ll find that you always need one or two when your hands are already full doing something else.
  6. White board marker. Our rooms are supposed to have their own whiteboard markers. We all know this doesn’t happen. Updating the boards aren’t necessarily the top priority, but I try to update them when I can. It helps patients feel more comfortable if they know the names of their care team.
  7. Black pen. This is probably my least used item, and I often lose it, but it’s good to have!

I hope this can help some of my fellow students. I was so nervous on my first ED shift and I had no idea what I would need! I ended up filling my pockets with 4 pens, a small notebook, and all of my other regular clinical supplies. It was just too much.



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