Quick Q&A with ED nurse Ellie Forster.

Ellie is a Paediatric/Adult Emergency Nurse from Melbourne, and has hobbies including a cheeky glass of vino, meditation (check out her business Mood Mantras), live music, gardening and hanging with friends and family!

Why did you choose to nurse?

I chose Nursing because I wanted to make a small difference in people’s lives, it’s something I always felt called to do. I love the stimulation of critical thinking during the care and treatment process. I didn’t pursue this calling until much later on in life. I had a few things on my list to do first. Like travel! Then I met my husband and next minute I was having a couple of children

Did you have a career before you started nursing?

Yes, I travelled overseas and came home and fell into a reception role in real estate, climbed the ladder, became PA to the director of a company, acquired my real estate license and was off and on for about 15 years in this line of work. Before travel, I went to a well-known drama and dance school in Victoria and finished my year 12 there and after working in real estate I took on a job at the Australian Ballet and that’s when I fell pregnant and left the ballet.

When my youngest was 2 when I started studying Nursing and graduated a long 5 years later with a Bachelor of Nursing. During my study, I worked as a casual in the disability service and it was the best preparation for bedside care including nursing interventions and assessments. I loved every second.

I studied at UNI SA online and did all my practical work in Adelaide. The online study component was much easier with small kids. I would listen to online lectures, fold washing and feed my youngest, multitasking at its finest. I was also juggling kinder and school drops off too. I am lucky to have an extremely supportive husband who helped me through all of it

Where did you do your graduate program?

I did my grad program in an acute respiratory ward and then in a mixed paediatric/adult emergency department. Both were and still are incredible units with wonderful supportive teams which gave me the confidence to go forth in my new career. Currently, I am still in Emergency and love it!

What are some of the most important traits for an emergency nurse?

Bedside manner and empathy. Understanding that everyone has a story. Having patience and knowing when to just listen to the needs of a patient is imperative. It is a given that you need to be okay with bodily fluids and functions. One other imperative thing is having the ability to say you are uncomfortable in particular situations beyond your skills and scope of practice.

What are the main types of patients you see in your current position?

Our emergency department tends to see patients that have suffered or currently suffering from an AMI, GIT issues, workplace accidents, MVAs, domestic violence, paediatric respiratory issues, renal colic, biliary colic, sepsis, pneumonia’s, falls, pain management, miscarriages.

There are times we get casualties with far more complex issues and we liaise with the team at Alfred Hospital for transfer and guidance on point of care. This is an interesting part of my job, listening to doctors converse over how to care for a patient for the best possible health outcome.

How do you start your assessments?

As nurses we conduct a head to toe assessments, usually beginning with a visual assessment as a patient is moving towards a cubicle. We look at their gait and their ability to interact with staff and explain their story /issue. Once undressed and in a cubicle we begin our nursing and medical assessments such as ECGs, Bedside USS, pain management, bloods. Sometimes it’s more psychological issues that social work is required for. We often make a plan that requires home help and safety assessments using allied health, OT plans, and medication management.

Within four hours we facilitate nursing interventions, recognise deterioration and also work with the doctor to come up with a plan!

I love the challenge and being able to help people, sometimes its just to restore a patients faith in humankind.

How should aspiring ED nurses get prepared?

Keep an open mind, don’t judge a book by its cover and understand some people really struggle with change and that is okay too. As long as their health is not compromised. It is important to remember when looking after the elderly that they all have stories, they need to be nurtured and respected as any other human in this world. I think at times people forget that an elderly person with dementia does not mean to be aggressive, they do not mean to act out and if they do act out – it is our of fear and worry.

For me, life experience is something I had up my sleeve so that prepared me for an emergency. I would recommend working on a ward first, this is where you learn time management, a whole range of nursing skills required for ED and you can focus on one speciality initially. Once you have gained some ward skills, try sometime in ED. I feel that to work in ED it’s a mix of life skills, psychology and exercising critical thinking.

I have to say travel exposed me to all walks of life, this is what I love about Emergency. You meet every single different type of person that lives on this planet. I use skills from all these experiences and it helps me find common ground with people and a way to provide a personal individual care plan.

Describe a short typical day.

Coffee and handover is the start of my day, you can never predict a day in ED! Once we get to our assigned workspace, we do our safety checks in each cubicle, making sure the oxygen and suction work. The next step is to replenish stock if it hasn’t already been done, you don’t want to be caught without nasal prongs if someone is requiring O2 support quickly. The best thing to remember during a shift is to drink water and cleanse your body from all the little germs that linger in hospital.

For self-care, it is imperative to take your breaks and go to the toilet when you need to, don’t hold on. Nurse burn out is real so take care of your mind, body and soul – it’s part of self-care. The day is usually about time management and prioritizing patients care and remember, it’s okay to handover work to the ward or short stay units!

What would you say is a common misconceptions about ED nurses?

Some misconceptions are that we are tough and we have ‘seen it all’ but it’s not true. We are human, we have feelings, some cases are very close to home, we cry at times, need a hug (not when social distancing), people and their stories affect us but it also drives us to care from an empathetic point of view and not just a medical point of view.

Ellie is also the Founder of Mood Manstras. Check it out here