Release Date: 1/28/2011
Emergency Department nurse thrives on hectic pace
Joyce Murabito, R.N., a nurse in the Emergency Department of St. Anthony’s Medical Center, cites technical excellence, good organization skills and compassion as the primary qualities needed to be a good ER nurse.
Joyce Murabito, R.N., was 12 years old when her niece was born at the old St. Anthony’s Hospital on Grand Avenue. In those days, kids couldn’t visit patients; so while her parents went in to welcome the newborn baby, Murabito waited in the car. While she waited, she watched people coming and going, some sporting casts or hobbling on crutches. It piqued her curiosity – she wanted to go inside and see what was going on.
A few years later, when her grandma suffered a broken hip, she was old enough to visit. While many people are repelled by the sight of a nurse changing an IV, Murabito was intrigued. “I thought it was a really cool thing,” she said. “For some reason, I just liked the atmosphere in the hospital.”
Murabito, 57, has enjoyed that “atmosphere” for the past 31 years, the last 13 at St. Anthony’s Medical Center, the past five in the hospital’s busy Emergency Department. She works from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. three days a week, and the hectic pace of the ER suits her perfectly.
“It’s never boring, and I learn at least one new thing every day,” Murabito said. “I have a lot of good co-workers, and the doctors here are wonderful. The ER is the most fun place to be – and you need to enjoy your job.”
Murabito, who lives in Arnold, earned her nursing diploma from Jewish Hospital, then worked in their ER for a few years, before returning to school to obtain her bachelor’s degree from Webster University. She went on to earn a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing at St. Louis University, and worked as a psychiatric nurse for several years. In between, she taught nursing, and she eventually was certified as a nurse practitioner.
“But I realized I preferred staff nursing; so I took a position in St. Anthony’s ICCU, where I worked for about eight years before transferring to the ER,” Murabito said. “I wanted more variety, and here I see different treatments for a wide variety of illnesses every day. There are so many different patients, and I like the patient and family contact. That’s the best part of my job.”
Typically, the ER seems to gather momentum as the day progresses, with the biggest influx of patients coming in from noon to 8 p.m., Murabito said. “Ninety-five percent of the time you’re rushing,” Murabito admitted with a grin that said she doesn’t mind a bit. “But you really learn to keep your priorities straight. If you have a patient with a heart attack, stroke or serious injuries from an accident, it resets your whole day – you just focus on that patient.”
Normally, Murabito visits each of her patients, introduces herself, assesses their conditions, monitors their vital signs and, if indicated, takes blood for testing. “I tell them what’s going on, what to expect,” she said. “I think most people are kind of frightened when they come into the ER, so I try to talk to them to allay their fears a little bit. Patients feel more comfortable and less anxious if you keep them informed.”
Murabito moves from one patient to another, throughout her shift, assessing, monitoring, reassuring each one. “It’s important to keep reassessing the patient, especially if he or she is seriously ill,” she said. “If something is changing with the patient, you may need to perform different interventions.”
Working as a nurse in the ER requires good organizational skills and the ability to set priorities, Murabito said. But, along with excellent technical skills, one of the primary qualities needed to be a good ER nurse is compassion, Murabito said.
Murabito often connects with her patients and their families, even though it’s just for a few hours. Recently, she was caring for a young woman who was very ill. “When I went to put her IV in, she started praying,” Murabito said. “Her family joined in and I began praying along with them. It was a very touching moment – one I’ll never forget.”
Murabito has no plans to retire any time soon. “I’ll stay in the ER as long as I can run up and down these halls,” she said with a laugh. “I like working at St. Anthony’s, because we are on the cutting edge, technologically; and with our Chest Pain Center, Stroke Center and Level II Trauma rating, we can care for the most seriously ill patients. A lot of changes have been made to provide better care for patients in the ER, and now we can provide that care faster and more efficiently.
“After all these years, I still want to be a nurse – it was a good choice for me. I’ll be working in the ER as long as they let me stay.”
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