My job

35 years as an emergency nurse practitioner

Emergency nurse Martina Browne explains why she still loves the role 

Emergency nurse Martina Browne explains why she still loves the role after 35 years

Picture of emergency nurse Martina Browne, who explains why she still loves the role after 35 years.

What is your job?

Autonomous nurse practitioner in the emergency department (ED) of a hospital in Northern Ireland, assessing, diagnosing, treating and discharging patients of all ages who present in the ambulatory area. I support pre-registration nurses during their placements and I am a sign-off mentor for postgraduate students completing a BSc specialist practice course.

Why did you become an emergency nurse?

By default. When I qualified as a nurse, many years ago, the area in which you worked was at the discretion of the nursing officers. I was sent to the ED.

What might you have done otherwise?

During the 1980s I trained and qualified as a midwife but there were no jobs in midwifery at that time, so I returned to emergency nursing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I thoroughly enjoy my job. Every day is different. I’m still learning, and I get to engage and interact with people from all walks of life. I have seen many changes in the service provided and I have gained a wealth of knowledge from the people I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. That experience informs my practice today. I strive to provide the best care I can to each patient.

How and where have you developed your emergency care skills?

Growing up in Northern Ireland was probably my first step to developing emergency skills. Having survived that, I went on to complete my BSc in specialist practice at Queen’s University Belfast and certificate in independent and supplementary prescribing at Ulster University.

How did you progress through your career?

After several years as a staff nurse I took up a post as one of two sisters in the department. On the retirement of my colleague the position of department manager was created. I became the first department manager, but soon realised I missed the clinical role. In 2004 the first emergency nurse practitioner post was introduced, and I was delighted to take up the challenge. I have been in this role ever since and do not regret my decision.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced and how have you overcome it?

A very wise person once said to me: ‘It’s only a problem if you make it a problem.’ Bearing that in mind, I try to apply that principle to most things in life, including work. Having like-minded people around to provide support and encouragement certainly helps.

What inspires you?

Ordinary people. There are days I am in awe of how people cope with the situation they find themselves in.

What achievement makes you most proud?

That after 40 years of nursing, 35 of those in the ED, I still enjoy my work.

What makes a good emergency nurse?

We encounter all types of people – no two people are alike. Emergency nurses should be versatile and prepared to push boundaries to achieve the best for their patients.

What advice would you give a nurse who is starting out in emergency care?

Use all the opportunities you encounter to learn. Share your experience with others and ask for help.

What is likely to affect emergency nurses most over the next 12 months?

You only have to look at a newspaper to see the pressures facing emergency nurses, and these headlines have a huge impact on a nurse’s morale. Negativity drags staff down. I work with many junior staff starting out in their careers who are excellent. The ED can be extremely frightening, with ever-changing demands. I observe them rise to the challenge daily, and I am proud to work alongside them.

Martina Browne is an emergency nurse practitioner in the emergency department of Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

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