CAREERS IN NURSING
TIMES OF EMERGENCY – ER NURSES ARE THERE WHEN YOU NEED THEM
by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Shannon Dunkeson, RN, has spent all of 21 years as a nurse in emergency department nursing. She is an emergency room nurse at OU Medical Center Edmond.
“I love my patients. I love what I do. People say it’s because I do something different every day,” Dunkeson said. “No. It’s because I am going to be the best part of somebody’s worst day. And somebody’s going to make my day remind me of why I do what I do.”
This seasoned ER nurse loves people and likes to touch lives by helping them. She never wants to change.
“I’ve done it long enough to where I’m one of those old ER nurses,” said Dunkenson, who is in her early 40s.
She has worked at the facility for about a year, but also worked at OU Medical Center in downtown Oklahoma City. She earned her nursing degree at the Central Wyoming College in 1995 where she grew up.
“I actually flew in my younger years when I was in my 20s for about 10 years but I’ve always done ER,” Dunkeson said. “I was a flight nurse in a helicopter in South Dakota for a local hospital. I never went outside of ER. It’s my passion.”
It was a tragic accident to her father when Dunkeson was 9 years old that gave rise to a nursing career.
“When we were going to turn the ventilator off, the nurse with a white hat and a white gown came over and said something to my mom in the midst of all this disaster.” she recalled. “And my mom just smiled and said thank you.”
That one nurse made a difference in Dunkeson’s life. She wishes that she knew the name of the nurse that made her mother smile at a time of profound loss.
Smiles return to the emergency room at OU Medical Center Edmond in the form of thank you cards and greetings.
“There’s always those people that remind you of what you do,” she said.
One gentleman stays in touch with her because she cared for his elderly mother in her 90s several times before she passed. Every time he visits her, he will bring her a Dr. Pepper.
He will say, “I remember you saying you like Dr. Pepper, and mom wanted me to bring you one.”
Dunkeson describes the nurses she works with as a good bunch of people.
“We’re good at what we do and we’re here for a reason,” she said. “We’re a great team. We all get along and I think we all have the same reasoning to why we’re here, if you will, and the same need and wants.”
“We’re here because we want to be, not because we have to be.”
Everyone she works with at OU Medical Center Edmond has the same big heart and family values. The hospital has brought that to her career, she said.
“I’ve been to other hospitals in my career. This one seems to be the one that stole the blanket. It’s nice.”
Her days are spontaneous. It is not like being a surgical nurse when surgeries are scheduled and a nurse knows what to expect the next day. She never knows who will be come through the door after or during a conversation.
“I’m okay with that. As ER nurses our lives revolve around things like that. We take everything in stride,” she said.
Patients and their families do not set an appointment to come to the ER. Their days may be interrupted with fear. As a nurse, Dunkeson is a soothing instrument of peace. She makes a point to touch her patients, perhaps their knee, looking at them in the eye and letting them cry or be angry.
Dunkeson lets her patients know that while they are in the emergency room to let her do the worrying. Let them be at peace with what we’re doing, she continued.
“They didn’t plan on this day. They came in. We take their clothes off. We put you on a bed and may give you a warm blanket, depending on what’s going on,” she said. “So if you can give that one person or the family a little bit of, ‘It’s okay. Let me do this while you take a breath, then I will let you know what is happening.’”
Summer time is hot. Oftentimes, there will be patients coming to the ER with heat exhaustion or bites from snakes or spiders.
“A lot of these guys — the manual workers outside — the TV repairmen that are in these attics when it’s more than 100 degrees are doing their job,” she said.
Dunkeson reacts in the moment to get them cooled down. They are grateful as a result, she said.