Almost apologetically, Nicole Meyer says, “This isn’t a typical Tuesday.” The morning starts out slow. But it’s as if she knows it’s the calm before the storm. Tuesday is more often than not one of the busiest days of the week in ER, where Meyer serves as a nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
It only takes a few heartbeats before the pace changes to what Meyer calls “organized chaos.” She has four patients in her charge but when things pick up, she often has more. The calls come from the waiting room triage and ambulances en route. She knows what is headed her way but she is not certain the extent of her patients’ conditions until she meets them face-to-face.
“How do you feel? Is there pain?” she asks. And then she listens.
“We start by what they have to tell us,” says Meyer, who begins her shift at 6 a.m. She also anticipates. “As she finishes up an EKG on a patient, she says, “Experience helps in anticipating what a doctor will order.”
Anticipation, research, observation, communication, and time-management – they are all skills Meyer has learned along the path to nursing.
She came to Methodist ER in 2012 as a medic and began working as an ER nurse last year. She obtained her first undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin/Madison and worked in the construction industry. Her second undergraduate degree in biology and microbiology was also from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. She then obtained a graduate degree in cellular biology from Indiana University, began work as an EMT and was elected coroner of Monroe County. She was working two jobs while attending nursing school.
So she knows a little bit about multi-tasking. As coroner of Monroe County she managed a staff of five deputy coroners and responded to about 200 cases a year – ranging from boating accidents on Lake Monroe to homicides. “We worked in death scene investigation, we worked with the DEA, and even foreign governments. There was a lot of coordination,” said Meyer, who commutes from Bloomington to Indianapolis. “I’ve been able to pull something from every job and bring it to nursing.”
One of the greatest lessons she’s learned is this “You have to pay attention to what’s going on around you to determine the most acute situation and where you are needed most at that moment.”
On this Tuesday, she tends to a patient who has fallen and is complaining of dizziness. Several tests follow before the patient is released. And in another room Meyer assists a staff member in turning a patient. On to the next stop she meets with Emergency Medicine Doctor Kevin Rogers to discuss a patient’s update and plan. As she finishes the conversation, EMTs enter and she listens as paramedic Cory Cochran gives her information on the incoming patient. No sooner does Meyer help get the patient into a room than another team of Lifeline paramedics race through the doors.
One of the paramedics greets Meyer by name. Meyer responds and quickly turns her attention to the female patient and the gentleman accompanying her.
“Hi, young lady. Who is this handsome young man with you?” asks Meyer. It’s all part of her attempt at assessing the patient and helping the woman feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.
“Nursing is about being touchy, feely. It’s a holistic approach,” said Meyer, who burns off stress by watching and participating in sports and hanging out with her toy poodles. “The best part of this job is there is no typical day, no typical Tuesday,” she said. “One of the things in ER is that the best laid plans, never happen. Teamwork is essential and I’m fortunate to work with a fantastic team of smart and engaging people.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.