"You have to be prepared for whatever comes in,"… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
Years on the job: 10
How she got started: After high school, Erica Small knew she wanted to go into the medical field and started taking classes at what is now Stevenson University. She switched to the Community College of Baltimore County and became certified as an emergency medical technician and a certified nursing assistant.
While still in school, she began working as a patient service associate in Sinai Hospital's emergency room. When she graduated from CCBC, she began working in the same department as a critical care technician.
Although she said she caught the "ER bug" and loved the fast-paced atmosphere, after about five years she left her job and work as a critical care technician for a staffing agency. She got to try out the same job in a different setting, but after about a year she went back to the emergency room.
"A lot of people get burned out by the ER, and I wanted to make sure it was where I wanted to be," Small said.
She's taking classes at CCBC en route to earning her bachelor's degree in nursing.
Typical day: As a critical care technician she's there to help the nurses and doctors in the emergency room.
"We are the extra arms and legs of the nurses," Small said.
Small recently switched from working three 12-hour night shifts to working mostly days to accommodate her school schedule. She works three shifts during the week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and one 12-hour weekend night shift.
She'll draw blood, perform electrocardiogram (EKG) tests, start intravenous catheters, fit splints and take vital signs. Small also stocks supplies and is called on to get blood from the blood bank. She can respond as part of an ER team to emergencies in other parts of the hospital.
If a patient or family member has questions, she can help. And once patients are able to leave the hospital or transfer to another department, Small assists in getting them ready and explains the process.
The emergency room at Sinai averages 205 patient visits daily.
"You have to be prepared for whatever comes in," she said. "You always have to be ready to jump in."
She said she helps to reiterate information given by doctors and nurses.
Building a rapport with patients who come to the emergency room is also critical.
"It calms them down," Small said. "You try to get a feel [for the situation] and see where you can relate to them, and then you're seen as human. If I get them to know and trust me, we'll have a successful visit."
The good: "The feeling I get when a patient is smiling and leaving the ER and is saying 'thank you,' " Small said.
The bad: "Seeing the preventative deaths due to crime. It's needless."
Philosophy on the job: "Connecting with whoever it needs to be, with the family or patient. Sometimes a lot of people are afraid to tell us everything. We're here to help."
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