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Acad Emerg Med. 2003 Jul;10(7):798-804.

Emergency nursing: historical, current, and future roles.

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Section of Emergency Medicine, Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


Building upon a historical context, the current and future roles of the clinical emergency nurse are reviewed. For several reasons, emergency nurse availability is expected to be insufficient to meet staffing demands in the near future. Emergency physicians can partner with emergency nurses and hospital administrators to pursue the following strategies for addressing the nursing shortage: 1) improve the workplace environment by improving nurse-to-patient ratios and avoiding the boarding of admitted patients in the emergency department (ED); 2) refocus the emergency nurse job description to patients and their families; 3) promote mutually supportive relationships and comradeship between emergency nurses and physicians; 4) create an environment that allows unique solutions to staff scheduling and accommodates shiftwork; 5) increase nursing wages, and recognize special contributions of emergency nurses with financial reward; 6) identify and promote the personnel of the hospital ED as members of an elite unit; 7) develop preceptorships and internships for nurses new to emergency nursing and invest in clinical specialists or nurse-mentors to assist in "on-the-job" instruction of nurses with previous experience; and 8) invest in nursing education. Taking these steps today will strengthen the ED health care safety net for decades to come.

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