Working in an emergency department presents a range of physical and mental work health and safety hazards, including exposure to infection, bodily fluids, highly emotional situations and patient aggression.

Rebecca explains how she looks after herself so that she can be a good nurse for her patients and a good mum, sister and partner at home.

Who is this for?

This video is primarily intended for healthcare workers and managers, and anyone interested in the health care and social assistance industry.

About the presenter

Rebecca Caulfield is a nurse in the emergency department at Canberra Hospital.

This video was produced by Safe Work Australia and is one of a series that focuses on work health and safety in specific industries.

Additional resources



A day in the life of a nurse

Rebecca Caulfield, Emergency nurse:

I love coming to work every day. You never know what challenges are going to pop up each day and that's part of the joy. You have to be prepared for anything, whatever rolls through the door. We have a wide range of risks. We have exposure to people's bodily fluids, so that is one of our dangers. Infection control, so we have different levels of precautions for different patients. Physically, we have patients who can be aggressive and those are often drug affected or alcohol affected patients. So we have a safe area of ED, which we can place them in that reduces the risk of harm to us as staff but to the patient as well from themselves. We also have various codes that we can call in the ED that will bring specific staff to us to assist.

Not as we well publicised is more the emotional toll of being an ED nurse. We come to work every day and see people at their worst and over time that takes its toll on us all. We have the EAP, which is the Employee Assistance Program, so that's free psychological assistance to staff. That's a really great service to have. We have a system called Risk Man and that's for all staff have access to it and it's for us to report any sort of near misses or actual accidents or adverse outcomes. Those are escalated up the line and quite often we have feedback on those, so what we can do on the floor to make things better, but I know management also have implemented structures and processes as a result of the Risk Man system to make it a safer work place for us as staff, but also for the patients.

Working in an environment like this, where there's higher pressures and higher stress it's really important that I go home to my family safely, both emotionally and physically to make sure that I'm being the best person that I can be, as a mum and a sister and a partner and everything else as well as I am being a really good nurse for all of my patients.

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