Meeting unspoken needs: How a recent nurse graduate supports emergency medicine

Like many new graduates, Sarah Meeker wanted to experience several different clinical spaces to find one that aligned with her passion for nursing.

But, as she says, “nothing really stuck.”

That is, until she found a challenging yet rewarding environment at UI Hospitals & Clinics’ Emergency Department (ED).

“The ED is really fast-paced,” says Meeker, RN, BSN. “And I really enjoy the people. Everybody down there is so helpful, and I just enjoy the atmosphere a lot.”

Sarah Meeker, RN, BSN, is a nurse in the emergency department.

After a successful internship in the ED, Meeker’s coworkers quickly noticed the compassion she brings to the department.

“She speaks to everyone with respect and kindness and is always willing to help out her fellow nurses and the nursing assistants,” says one of Meeker’s colleagues. “Sarah is patient and kind to all her patients, regardless of the complex situations they may be in.”

Meeker knows many patients are nervous when they come to the ED, seeking help for whatever issue they may be facing. She believes that listening is often the best way to start any patient interaction.

“Generally, there’s something else bothering patients that we may not know about until you just let them talk,” Meeker says.

Supporting her pod mates

Like several units across the hospital, Meeker is paired with another nurse during each shift, referred to as a “pod mate,” and they often lean on each other when caring for patients.

“Helping my pod mate is one of things I prioritize,” Meeker says. “If they look stressed, I’ll ask, ’Hey, is there something I can help you with?’ And if I have time, I try to pop into other pods to talk with everyone and see if they need help with anything.”

After starting in the ED eight months ago, Meeker has learned much about caring for patients and being a team player.

“There’s so much camaraderie on the night shift team. If I need something, I know that someone from my team will be there to help me,” she says.

Meeting a patient’s unspoken needs

Meeker hones her communication skills, by primarily just listening to her patients.

“After I introduce myself, I let the patients take the lead and tell me what’s going on, versus the other way around. Because if I go in there thinking I know everything that’s wrong, I might miss something,” she says. “Usually I say, ‘It’s a very busy place down here, but I’m here to help you. You just have to help me and be patient with me, and I’ll help you the best I can.’”

Looking to meet a patient’s unspoken needs through active listening is a way that Meeker looks to gain the trust of her patients and their families.

“I hope by showing my patients I’m here to listen to their needs and concerns, it makes them feel comfortable enough to tell me if they need something,” she says. “I want them to know I’m going to be there for them.”

Meeker says her overall goal is to help people so that they’ll pay it forward by helping others, which is why she tries to treat everyone with compassion and understanding of the complex situations they may be facing.

“Sometimes people just need a little bit of encouragement and support because they may not have it anywhere else in their lives,” Meeker says. “Sometimes just having a little bit of light in a very dark situation can be very encouraging.”

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