A Day in the Life of a Trauma Nurse

Published May 9, 2016

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Just a few of the trauma nurses who work at Nebraska Medicine.

The squad box goes off, announcing the arrival of an incoming trauma patient. The lead nurse in the emergency department quickly assesses patient volume, staffing, and begins rearranging assignments to accommodate the patient. Resources are mobilized quickly and efficiently – after all, there is less than five minutes to prepare before the patient arrives. This is a well-oiled machine. The ED staff nurse assigned to trauma, scurries to carefully hand-off their patient load to another nurse. They begin to prepare the trauma bay. In short order, everyone and everything is ready to go with a minute to spare. This is not the exception, but the rule. It’s a day in the life of a trauma nurse. 

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Nebraska Medicine offers 24/7 trauma care.

At the same time, a floor away, the OR lead nurse gets a page, alerting them to the incoming trauma patient. They quickly assess the immediate activity in the operating room and begin making arrangements for the space and staff – then they head down to the trauma bay. The OR lead nurse acts as a liaison between the trauma surgeons, anesthesiology and staff in the operating room. While timing of the patient movement to the OR is completely unknown, they know the patient is arriving in the trauma bay five minutes from now. The OR lead nurse remains in constant communication between the activity in the trauma bay and the operating room, and has already put many wheels in motions. This is not the exception, but the rule. It’s a day in the life of a trauma nurse. 

The nursing resource coordinator (NRC) also responds to the trauma page. Their role? Finding an empty room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the incoming patient. The NRC reaches out to the Patient Placement Unit (PPU) and the ICU lead nurse – all while never missing a step or slowing down on their way to the emergency department. If no family members arrive with the patient, attention is shifted to help locate the patient’s family. Thankfully, pastoral care and law enforcement are also there to help. Over time, the art of using any and all available resources to locate family members is well-polished. This is not the exception, but the rule. It’s a day in the life of a trauma nurse. 

The ICU lead nurse begins assessing the needs of the unit. Every situation is different. It’s unknown if the patient will arrive to the ICU within a few minutes, or several hours. The ICU lead coordinates any necessary patient moves with the PPU staff so that all movement occurs with ease. While the exact timing is unknown, the ICU nursing staff can turn on a dime. They’re always prepared. Like the NRC, the nurses in the ED, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and operating room stand ready to provide extraordinary care at a moment’s notice. This is not the exception, but the rule. It’s a day in the life of a trauma nurse.

Trauma nurses at Nebraska Medicine wear many hats. No two days are the same. They provide extraordinary care to trauma patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

For more information about trauma services at Nebraska Medicine, call 402.552.3997.

About the Author

Karen Saxton
Trauma Program Director
Nebraska Medicine