Only in the ER

Emergency Department… just the thought of being assigned to the ED had filled me with dread the first time it was offered to me, but I had survived.  It is a fascinating place to be in. Whether you’re the patient or the nurse.



The nurse instructed the patient to undress and to provide a urine specimen. She handed the patient a clothing bag and a specimen container. Minutes later, he handed the nurse the clothing bag with a dark amber colored fluid in it. He reasoned out that the specimen container was too small to hold all his urine.

Whenever I come out into the ED Waiting Room to call a patient, I always feel like a celebrity. Patients and families rush up to me like I’m a goddess who’s going to sweep them into the examination rooms. Right! Don’t they know that the ER is like a madhouse and that it’s almost Standing Room only?
Sometimes I feel like the hungry crowd is closing in on me. I can feel their hot breaths of anticipation and see the hostile glances from those who are left behind.

The EMS is between a rock and a hard place. Because of the EMTALA/COBRA laws, NY EMS cannot refuse transports for the following:
1.”I have a clinic appointment and I can’t afford a taxi.”
2. “I didn’t make it to the Methadone clinic before closing time. I need to go to the hospital for my dose.”
3. “It’s too cold out in the streets and I don’t want to stay in the shelter. Bring me to the hospital.”
4.”I just wanna talk with somebody.”

Sometimes at triage, it’s like pulling teeth just to get the right information from the patient. They either bring all their chronic complaints, or they expect you to deduce their medical history from their medication bottles.

Then, after all that, their complaints change when they see the physicians.

Most alcoholics are Houdinis. They can get out of the fanciest restraints. One advice I’ve followed through the years: Undress these patients and keep their clothes inaccessible. And if they do get out of restraints, it’s easier to catch them. Just follow the ones running naked through the ER.

Overheard at Triage, in the middle of the blizzard…
Patient 1: “I have ingrown toe-nail.’
Patient 2: “So what if I have this arm pain for 15 years?”
Patient 3: “I need a sonogram, my head is buzzing.”
Patient 4: “Is lunch served yet?”
Patient 5: “I have itching down there. Do you want to see?”
Patient 6: “I need a physical.”
Patient 7: ” Is Psych open?”
Nurse: “Oh yes, they still have room for one more patient.”

“Are you pregnant?”,the triage nurse asked the female patient who rushed into the room. The patient was puffing hard and writhing in pain.
“No way! I’m just fat.”

Minutes later, the patient’s spandex began to sag at the crotch. The nurse barely had time to catch the baby.

When undressing a patient for exam, be ready for the barrage of scents that assault the senses and challenge your gut. Don’t remove the socks unless absolutely necessary.

Sometimes, my ears ring because of the constant onslaught of curses from patients and families. I handle them as firm and as professional as I can be.

And in my mind, I curse them back in my own language. It helps.

A doctor looks around wearily, “Who’s my nurse?”
I ask him back, “It’s 12:00 o’clock already, don’t you know who your nurses are?”

For the umpteenth time, I had to explain to the irate relative. “Sorry, sir, there’s a lot of patients today. Many much sicker than your wife. Yes, we know that her ingrown toenail is hurting too much.”



I am so happy to announce that my FIRST BOOK is now available for purchase on Amazon. Please share among your friends. This is not just for nurses or for Filipinos. This is for all of you with dreams in their hearts. This is my lifelong dream, finally realized. 

Excerpts from the Introduction:

Nursing in America is a delightful journey into independence and self-fulfillment. As a young nurse living thousands of miles away from family, life was filled with challenges to both my personal and professional lives. Like countless other Filipino nurses working abroad, I have carved my own little niche in my chosen profession.

More than ever, I realize how fortunate I am to belong to a service profession that is most definitely and infinitesimally life-affirming and emotionally rewarding.

My life is enriched with the fascinating vignettes that gave meaning to the long hours and hard work.

I have lived my mother’s dreams, which had become mine as well.

Here is my other dream, a book that chronicles some of those stories that make me proud to be a nurse. This is my journey as a Filipino nurse in America. But my stories of life as an ER nurse reflect what any other nurse had gone through.

We only need to believe in ourselves.

Dream some more. Have faith.




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About Jo Cerrudo 39 Articles
Clinical Nurse Specialist in NYC. On a new journey of discovery. Author, "Nursing Vignettes", published Aug. 2012 (available on Amazon). E-mail: [email protected] Blogs:
  • Melanie L Bowen

    Hi there!

    I have a quick question about your blog! Please email me when you get a chance.


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  • I am so thrilled about reading the tidbits of your blogs Jo. I am a registered nurse as well and first started as an emergency nurse in New Zealand. I miss the job but I’m planning to be back there again. Currently I am working in a Spinal Unit. I miss ED so suddenly.

    Going away from home is really a tough decision but I am glad to have fled away from my comfort zone although it was so hard. I laugh so hard at your funny experiences.

    Cheers my fellow. Your success is so inspirational.

    [email protected]

    • Thanks, June. ER is a mix bag of funny and sad. But I enjoy it. I’m not on the bedside anymore, because of other responsibilities but I help out every now and then.