“Living the dream” Emergency department series

This photo series of 27 staff from the Emergency department is called.

“Living the dream”.

The project is about exploring :

Why do we work in ED?

Why do we stay working in ED?

The Emergency department is thought of as a place where patients are lined up out the door, unreasonable wait times, where violence and aggression reigns. The media highlighting medication errors and deaths in the department, always portrayed as the bad guy.

However, the people that work in an ED are a big dysfunctional family who care. We are people. We work in an environment that is highly dynamic and emotional and doing our jobs to the best of our ability in all streams. Workloads have increased, staffing is always a problem and the statistics on paper do not reflect the craziness, stress or human emotion of a shift. As a team we work together in an environment that can change overnight – literally with COVID we had to adapt to a pandemic in one shift.  ED is a place where I have seen, overheard, or been told stories of staggering empathy, staff advocating passionately for patients, compassion, care, small moments of peace and comfort given amongst the chaos on the other side of the blue curtain.

Working in ED has taught me that kindness is what matters, that every single person has a story. As an admin officer it is a place that is unlike other workplaces for admin staff. We work as part of a team with highly educated and skilled people, seeing and experiencing patients extremely unwell and vulnerable. I have had times when I have had a cry at my desk and leave the shift still thinking of a patient that affected me in some way over the eight hours at work. I have learnt that life is so short and can be snatched away. It has taught me that every experience is what you make it – spending Christmas days, birthdays, mother’s days at work with some of my work family and making the most of it means you experience the day twice, once with home family and again with work family (does not mean I don’t still cry driving to work on these days). I love the weird humour and the superstitions that goes with working in an ED.  Don’t say the Q word and the full moon absolutely influences humans. That conversations at 2am are usually deep and meaningful, or wildly inappropriate and always get your work mate to check any email that you want to send to the boss at that time of the morning.

I would like to say that I am incredibly grateful to all that participated in the ED photo project. 27 people in total. Thank you to everyone for taking a few minutes of being put on the spot to reflect on your why of working in the ED.  I am so honoured to work with you all and you all downplayed your roles and the work that you do.

Rachel, Clinical nurse and has worked in Emergency for nearly 14 years. “I am an adrenalin junkie, and I don’t sit still for very long. I identified early that I could not do a 9-5 job and that this was the best place for me. I only have people for four hours then it’s on to the next thing. I know a little bit about a lot of things. I work in ED because you are always meeting someone on their worst day, you are always going to be the face of their worst day. So, If I can do something to make that worst day better, I have made a difference. Totally regardless of what it is drugs, alcohol, heart attacks or if it’s holding someone’s hand at the end. 14 years of holding people’s hands and getting them broken and black eyes. I mean yeah, you just keep coming back and if I can be there to hold them on their worst day then I have done my job. The job isn’t about the CPR or the drugs we get to use; its someone’s family, its someone’s life”.
Anna, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 5 years. “I thought that I would hate but when I worked in ED on my placement, I realized I loved helping people in their most dire needing moment and I wanted to be part of that, and I wanted to be around the people who work here who are really skilled. I love the people that I work with, I get to work with a bunch of legends, I think that the people here are very passionate about providing really quality, high quality care to patients and obviously I want to help save lives.”
Gurinder, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 11 years. “I like how versatile it is and we see something different every day, different types of patients, new diagnosis. I like to take care of the people and to look after them and be passionate about the job.”
Vicki, admin officer has worked in Emergency for 12 years. “I initially was working in ICU as a ward receptionist Monday to Friday which I loved, but also was working as a pool lifeguard and was working two jobs so seven days a week. I had no time off at all, I am a single mum. I realized that when I came to ED that I could work less hours and earn the same money and have days with off with my daughter. Now that my daughter has left home, and I am still here, I am here because of the shift work. I like aspects of the job, I like the different people that I get to work with, I like the mix that we get to work in adults and children’s emergency. I am so close to retirement now that I would be silly to leave”.
Kathy, admin officer has worked in Emergency for 9 years. “I didn’t apply for ED, I was sucked into the job. I actually applied for the casual pool. I didn’t want to come to ED. I have stayed because of the crazy. It is crazy in ED and it suits my personality which I found out after I had been here for a while. The diversity of all the different types of people and patients that we see and the whole way emergency runs. It is a very grounding place to work, it is a real job”.
Lauren, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 7 years. “I chose ED for something different. I worked in oncology before ED and it was making me very sad, I needed fast pace and a change. I am here for the people, I love the people that I have worked with some of my absolute best, best friends are from ED. It is crazy here, an absolute circus, but you know I love the crazy, so I totally fit in with the environment”.
Angela, admin officer has worked in Emergency for 7 years. “The reason that I am here I was made redundant twice from previous jobs in health care. I saw an email that my ex-husband got when he was working in the hospital. I wasn’t supposed to apply for it, but you know I did, I got a phone call two days later to say you have a job. I was ecstatic because had been out of a job for 6 months and so I took it by the horns and ran with it and yep still here and I must say that I do love Emergency”.
Brooke, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 2 years. I love the flexibility and the ever-changing dynamic of the ED I am here to try and keep up with it.
Cath, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 10 years. “I applied for Ed just out of interest really, I love working with people, I love learning about the human body. Gosh why do I stay here? Well because the staff, the amazing teamwork, I love dealing with patients when they are in their absolute most vulnerable state, getting to do the simple things but they make a huge difference to the people that need it. Simple things that don’t seem much but then people say time and time again thank you so much for caring.
Rose, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 14 years. “Why I want to work in Ed, well it is a very rewarding field of nursing where I can learn, where I can use critical thinking skills at the same time, I can gain more knowledge and expertise in emergency nursing and a variety of fields. I love working in ED because every single day is different, every day we see different types of presentations. Every day we don’t have a clue what is coming in the door, one minute you can get a very, very ill patient, next minute a patient with a sore toe. It is a challenge to discover what is actually going on the with the patient and it is very rejuvenating to know that we can make a difference for patients”.
Laurel, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 18 years.” I have seen how it has grown to the explosion stage that it is in now. I have enjoyed the challenge of meeting lots of different patients. Coming to work everyday is a challenge that I enjoy, and I will continue to do so until I retire sometime next year. The team in ED is incredibly important, doctors, nurses, admin, wardies, we are a team. We are a jigsaw and we all fit together and work together, sometimes we are out of sync but on the whole, we are a great team. It’s a very stressful place to work but we have time for a laugh periodically, I think ED is a great place to work”.
Liz, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 4 years. “I work in ED because of the excitement that it is to help sick people, and the drama, love the drama of the Emergency department”.
Helena, admin officer has worked in Emergency for 14 years. “I work in emergency because of the love hate I have with ED. I love the people, I love the teamwork, I love the money”.
Alison, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 5 years. “I work in ED because I love a dynamic work environment and the life changing effect my skills can have during a crisis. I stay in ED because regardless of what is thrown at us, I work with an amazing team of professionals who make a difference in providing health care on the front lines”.
Daniel, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 12 years. “I work in Emergency because I love my job, it is the most fulfilling, rewarding job going around and helping people every day for me is priceless, helping patients and staff”.
Beth, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 19 or so years. “I love the people and I love watching my work family. I love my work family; I have these people that go through the same experiences as me. No one else outside really understands. I love the old people with all their stories, and I love the people that come here, and I can make a difference for them. I mean I love the crazies as well, there is nothing else like it. It is really a great place I love it”.
Jeema, registered nurse has worked in Emergency for 6 years. “I work in Ed for the fast pace, and I like the challenge. I love the patients; you know in ED we still have the regulars. I like working in a city Ed because you see a great variety of patients. The staff in ED are amazing and I have made many friends here after just moving to Brisbane from far north Queensland. The presentations are different in that there is a lot more mental health in Brisbane. But I love ED”.

James Admin officer has worked in Emergency for 9 years. “I ended up working there because I was bored in my other role at the RBWH, and I stayed because every day is different and because some of my colleagues have become like family”.
Gavin, Consultant doctor has worked in emergency 25 years. “Two reasons for being in ED. First reason. It is real medicine and second reason the action of emergency”.
Alaa, Consultant doctor has worked in emergency 19 years. “I like working emergency for the pace and the people, I like kids Emergency because I like to figure out what is wrong, because they can’t really tell you and to see them smile”.
Sue, volunteer has worked in Emergency 6 years. “I was sent to Ed as that was where they needed someone. I love that there is a lot to learn, and things change every day and I feel lucky every time I leave, every time I walk out I think I am so lucky”.
Polash, consultant doctor has worked in Emergency for 15 years. “I work in emergency medicine because it is a pace that I really enjoy, but most of all I enjoy the teamwork environment”.
Leah, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 32 years. “I work in emergency because people are acutely ill, and you see a better outcome from patients very quickly”.
Liz, registrar has worked in emergency for 14 years. “I want to be useful and helpful. I am from South Africa, and I am supposed to know trauma, I mean not that you have trauma in Australia, but this is where I ended up as a refugee from South Africa and only emergency would give me a job so thank you for having me”.
Anna, ANUM has worked in Emergency for 15 years. “I work in Emergency for the pace, it is busy, busy everyday and mostly the team, I love the team I get to work with”.
Cora, clinical nurse has worked in Emergency for 18 years. “I love emergency it is fast and challenging I like the people that I work with”.
Marilyn AIN has work in in Emergency for 12 years. “I didn’t even apply to ED but the old NUM and the CN and called me to come for an interview and I got the job, after a couple of weeks they asked me to work full-time, and I just wanted to be casual, and they kept asking me for full-time three times and I refused. But 12 years later I am still here, and I am enjoying the busy, busy of this workplace. Oh, the people, I just love them, and I love the job and I think that at my age I will end up retiring here, how lucky”.