If you've ever been sick or hurt, you know how much you count on them. Nurses are in high demand, but they also have some of the toughest and most stressful jobs in the workforce. WTOC went inside the emergency room for a look at the world of an emergency room nurse.
It's quarter of seven in the morning, and Bonnie Sawyer starts her 12-hour workday at Memorial Health. She's been a part of Memorial Health's Trauma team for 20 years.
"We're a level-one trauma center, so we get all the stabbings, shootings," she says. "Those types of things are a daily occurrence here."
By 7am, Bonnie's day is well underway. Her job, as the charge nurse, is to make sure patients are seen as quickly as possible. She remains in constant contact with her coworkers and her patients.
"I like the one on one contact that you have with your patients," she says.
As the morning goes on, Bonnie sees more patients. It's why Bonnie stays in emergency medicine.
"The excitement of having people come and the idea that you never really know exactly what's going to come through the door at any moment," she says.
By noon, Bonnie has no thoughts of stopping for lunch.
"I don't always take a lunch break," she says. "I make sure everything is running like it's supposed to."
As the afternoon goes on, the patient load has been steady, but not hectic. But working in an emergency room means that could change at any moment. Within minutes, it does. Bonnie and her team must work together to help a stroke victim.
"This is a very stressful job," Bonnie says. "I think, what you do is you work through the day and you try not to let little things get to you."
Bonnie works three 12-hour days instead of five eigh-hour ones. It's a schedule many nurses choose.
"They do have a flexible schedule here, so people are allowed to do the twelves or the eights. I guess it all depends on what your tolerance is," she explains.
At pm, the LifeStar helicopter lifts off to pick up a woman critically injured in a car accident.
"Everything is set up so when the patient rolls through the door, we can get started as quickly as possible," Bonnie says.
At 6pm, they're ready and waiting.
"Apparently, there is a closed head injury, some fractures, respiratory stress," says Bonnie.
When the patient arrives, the trauma team springs into action. Every member of the trauma team will do their part to pull the patient through, but a critically injured patient doesn't mean the rest of the trauma center comes to a halt. Three more ambulances are on the way, with victims from two different accidents. Patients are piling up in the hall. As 7pm approaches, Bonnie works with the charge nurse for the next shift to move some patients to a different area of the hospital. Then, it's time to let go, and go home.
"You can't really hold things here. If you did, I think it would be very difficult. You have to let go of things," Bonnie says. "It's a very stressful area."
But it's one Bonnie Sawyer clearly enjoys.
"I love my job," she says. "I don't think I'd ever want to do anything else."