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Are Nurses First Responders?

Let’s face it; nurses encounter situations and patients that challenge them to show instinctive reactions to them. Well, helping patients can be an incredibly will-testing task at many times. Sometimes, nurses are required to take care of even unbelievably rude and aggressive patients. Of course, they also get to see unfortunate deaths happen now and then in front of their eyes.

So, they have to deal with a lot of uncanny real-life scenarios that test their limits. In some scenarios, they have to be first responders. Of course, it depends on the setting. If you are the only nurse in an ambulance, you will automatically assume the role of the first responder. Makes sense, right? When a patient falls off the bed in the middle of an ordinary day, the nurse is usually the first responder. If you are a school nurse, you might be a first responder to most situations. So, nurses can be seen as first responders in many scenarios. Not in the true sense, though.

After all, nurses are not prepared for everything. They do not hold a doctor’s degree or experience. In fact, they can’t even prescribe medications, even if they have years and years of nursing experience under their belt. Not to undermine the fact that nurses usually don’t arrive on the scene first. Typically, doctors take the role of the leader, and nurses follow the instructions given by the doctor. Of course, they work synergistically at all times. It’s just that nurses are usually the 2nd responders and not the 1st.

What about Emergency Nurses? Are they not the First Responders?

Well, it may seem that nurses working in an emergency or trauma ward are first responders. However, this is not the case. Even though they provide care to the patient in the emergency ward, they are usually not the first responders. Just so that you know, a first responder is someone who arrives at the scene of the emergency first. In the medical setting, a first responder would be a person providing assistance first during a medical condition.

Triage Nurse

The emergency department also has triage nurses who access the patient first in the emergency room. As expected, it’s a very responsible job that requires a nurse to have a great deal of knowledge and experience. So, are triage nurses working in the emergency department considered first responders as they make the primary assessment of any incoming patient in the emergency ward?

On the surface, it may seem that triage nurse are first responders. However, this isn’t true because doctors are the ones that diagnose and direct treatment. Triage nurses only access the medical needs of the patients who arrive in the emergency room. They sort patients based on the hierarchy of the immediate care needed by the patients. Since they do not see or treat the patients first, even triage nurses are not considered as first responders.

As expected, first responders have a completely different focus. They not only access the patient, but they also initiate the care steps. At the same time, they communicate with the patients and initiate any other orders that may be the need of the hour. Most nurses are not trained for such multi-tasking scenarios. Only in certain exceptional scenarios, a nurse may find himself/herself in the role of a first responder (more on this below).


Of course, exceptional scenarios can create a situation where registered nurses may become first responders. For instance, nurses can become first responders during mass casualty scenarios. Yes, registered nurses can be called to be first responders during mass casualties. Just so that you know, a mass casualty scenario can be an earthquake, tsunami, or something along the same lines.

Nurses: First Responders during Pandemic?

Does the recent coronavirus pandemic fall under the mass casualty category? Do nurses attending the corona patients considered as first responders? Just so that you know, registered nurses are seen as front-line health care workers and not first responders in the pandemic wave. This is primarily due to the fact

that all the health care assistance is provided in a hospital environment and not outside the hospital.

In a nutshell, working in your regular location doesn’t fall under the category of first responders. For a nurse to be a first responder, he/she must respond to an emergency happening outside of the hospital setting. Think of why police and firefighters are considered first responders. They do not operate from a static place of employment. They usually go to remote locations to respond to emergency situations.

Routinely, first responders have to go to the people to whom they are responding. This isn’t the case with nurses who mainly operate under a medical office or hospital. Even if an ambulance brings a patient to the hospital, nurses are the 2nd responder. The 1st responder is the person who transports the patient to the hospital. Of course, this isn’t to say that the job of the 2nd responder is less important. It’s just that first responders are classified based on a certain hierarchy of assistance providence. That said, it’s unlikely that nurses will be classified as 1st responders even in the future.

But the profession is not unimportant or inconsequential. After all, registered nurses have a very important role to play in a patient’s wellbeing. Right from staying by the patient’s bedside to supporting the family members and more, their job is very significant. They are even the first ones to respond when the patient needs CPR or just needs someone to talk to. Oh yeah! They are also the first ones to hold a family member’s hand and tell them that everything will be okay. The profession is valued.

Final Words:

In general, nurses are not considered first responders. A nurse is dependent on a doctor’s order. The doctor decides what needs to be done. A registered nurse merely follows the instructions given by the doctor. A nurse lacks the experience to handle an emergency, which explains why a nurse is usually not considered a first responder. So, a nurse may not receive the accolades in the news for his/her heroic efforts. However, a nurse is counted as an important member of a medical team in providing life-saving care to a patient.

About Rachel

Hi my name is Rachel; a registered nurse. I graduated from one of the best nursing programmes and have been working in the medical field for 10 years. As a licensed practical nurse, I understand the plight that comes with the job. While I enjoy taking care of patients, I understand the long working hours that nurses have to deal with. We spend majority of the shifts walking around the medical centre making sure all patients are taken care of and this requires a lot of work and energy on the feet. https://bestnursingshoes.net has been created to help nurses from different parts of the world find the perfect shoes to reduce the strain on your feet and posture and make the job much easier.

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