From ER Nurse to CCU Nurse!

Everyone has been asking about my new job as a critical care nurse! Well, here goes:

It’s kind of a sad nurse’s day for me. I’m not an ER nurse anymore and I’m barely considered a CCU nurse.

I’m in between two careers right now. I’m closing my 5 year chapter of being an ER nurse’s and only 3 weeks into my journey of being a critical care nurse. I held so much of my personal identity in my career as an ER nurse. While I’m so happy with my new job, I can’t help but recognize the stark differences between ER and CCU.

Patients turn around so quickly in the ER. Someone comes in sick, you make them better, they go home or move on to another unit or hospital. In contrast, in the CCU, I would be caring for 2 patients for a full 12 hour shifts sometimes days in a row. While the turnaround is still faster than most other inpatient units, it still isn’t as fast paced as the ER.

In the ER, I need to know a little about a lot. I need to know enough about nose bleeds to ask the right questions and collect the right instruments (there are certain suction tips, packing, techniques, medications etc) I need to know enough about STD testing, OB patients, heart attacks, traumas, casting, splints, poisonings, court committals, cancer, etc. to help whoever comes through the door. The variety is invigorating. I never know what skill set I’ll be using in that shift. However, I never spend too much time on much of any specific disease process before I move on to the next patient. Now in the CCU, I’ll need to shift my mindset to know a LOT about my patients specific disease process and treatment.

In the larger hospital, things aren’t my responsibility. It is SO strange. Not every phone call that comes to the unit is for me. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the entire hospital anymore. In fact, very little of the greater happenings in the hospital in my shift involve me. Where as at a smaller hospital I have a good idea of if OB is busy or closed, how many patients are on med surg, if the ambulance is out, if they have an eye day in same day services, etc. My world now revolves around one or two patients. That’s my entire responsibility. While I can help my neighbors out on the unit, I’m not responsible for taking phone calls, managing transfer crews, taking the house supervisor phone, starting an IV in CT, troubleshooting visitor issues, responding to a code, paging severe weather warning over head, or just generally keeping the hospital functioning. I’m just a nurse who shows up and takes care of patients! That’s a HUGE difference coming from a critical access hospital.

My heart hurts a little time every time the helicopter leaves or I hear the ambulance whizzing by. I want to be on the receiving end of the emergency. I want the rush again. That being said, I’m well aware that the CCU will brings its own kind of rush in due time.

However, there’s nothing like being that first responder, the cutting of the clothes, the dirt and the blood, getting that IV access, pushing the life saving meds, and then the feeling of accomplishment when the patient is stabilized and transferred to definitive care. That rush of knowing what to do and being a contributing part of the team, That feeling of truly being a NURSE and knowing I can show up and make the difference and see the results of my hard work and experience change patient outcomes. I love that kind of critical thinking.

But now I feel very new and very unsure of myself. I’m so far outside of my comfort zone and what I’m used to. I feel small. I feel capable, I’ve got an incredible team, but I miss my predictable-I can handle anything-comfort zone. I miss being the one who knew the answer. I miss being sure of myself.

It will all come with time. I don’t want you to think I don’t like my new job because I do love it. I know this move is the best decision I could have made. My ER heart is just hurting a little on this eve of International Nurse’s Day and I’m ready to feel confident and comfortable again.

I made a commitment to never get too comfortable. I firmly believe that you can’t grow or learn when you are too comfortable. I took this job to get out of my box, I wanted a challenge, I wanted something new, I needed a new environment and I am getting exactly what I asked for. I’m growing and learning leaps and bounds. I can’t stress how COOL the people I work with are. I feel so welcome to their team. The hospital is GREAT and I can tell people love their jobs. I’m well taken care of and I’m well on my way to finding my place again in the world so don’t worry too much about me friends, I’m in great hands!



  1. Pam Mergen
    May 7, 2020 / 1:59 pm

    Where are you at now?

  2. Elle
    May 7, 2020 / 2:14 pm

    Expert to novice is a tough transition for a seasoned RN. Remember, Benner’s model shows us how we grow 🙂 I’m so happy to hear you’re surrounded by a wonderful team in your new work home!

    Wishing you a wonderful Happy Nurse’ Week!

  3. Kim LeMere
    May 7, 2020 / 8:28 pm

    Happy Nurse Week to you and thank you for being a nurse! I’m glad you are working with a great team and like your new hospital. The patients that you care for are lucky to have you and you do make a difference to them each and every day.

  4. Carolyn Sullivan
    May 7, 2020 / 10:29 pm

    So true! I remember when I went from Ortho to CCU (actually more of a Monitoring unit as they didn’t have visual on every pt there) There is a Phenomena off CCU or ICU nurse watch everything the newbie does. They fear you will do something or forget to do something that will cause a death. That constant watching and checking on me drove me crazy till I ‘proved’ myself. you can always go back to the ER. I transferred bc of the team leader. She was lazy and we all worked harder when she was on…. Not fun. I liked the CCU atmosphere and stayed for 18 months (average length of ICU, CCU nurse. I also was not an “Adrenaline Junkie” as one of the nurses called herself. She lived for the Codes, and was on the CODE team…. me not so much.

  5. Susan the Farm Quilter
    May 8, 2020 / 1:16 am

    Change is always difficult, but you should not doubt yourself or your abilities!! You are just growing in a different way and with your great team, they will make it as easy as possible for you to make the adjustment and help out when you start to feel like you are drowning!! Your patients will be so grateful for your awesome care!!! Happy Nurses Week…you make a huge difference in the lives you touch!

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