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  • Research shows emergency nurses are a special breed

    Author: Karen Keast

New research shows emergency department nurses are far more extroverted, agreeable and open than the general population.

And researchers believe it’s those specific personality traits that enable nurses to thrive in the demanding, fast-paced and stressful ED environment.

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University of Sydney researchers studied the personalities of 72 emergency nurses working at a large metropolitan Australian ED between July and October 2012.

Using a standardised personality test instrument to measure personality characteristics, they found emergency nurses scored higher than population norms in the areas of extraversion, openness to experience and agreeableness, and also when it comes to 12 facets, including excitement-seeking and competence.

Lead researcher Belinda Kennedy, a 15-year critical care nursing veteran, said the study was the first in 20 years to investigate personalities in emergency nursing.


Ms Kennedy said the findings, published in the Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal, could have implications for workforce recruitment and retention in emergency nursing.

“My years working as a critical care nurse has made me aware of the difficulty in retaining emergency nurses and I have observed apparent differences in personality among these specialty groups,” she said.

“With ever-increasing demands on emergency services it is necessary to consider how to enhance the recruitment and retention of emergency nurses in public hospitals.”

Ms Kennedy said personality assessment and an understanding of its influence on specialty selection could work to improve the process of attracting and retaining emergency nurses.

“The retention of emergency nurses not only has potential economic advantages but also a likely positive impact on patient care and outcomes, as well as improved morale among the nursing workforce,” she said.

With EDs the entry point for about 40 per cent of hospital admissions, where the types of injuries and illnesses and the number of patients is unpredictable, Ms Kennedy said it takes a particular type of person to perform in an ED.

“Emergency nurses are a special breed,” she said.

“Emergency nurses must have the capacity to care for the full spectrum of physical, psychological and social health problems within their community.

“They must also (be) able to develop a rapport with individuals from all age groups and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, in time-critical situations and often at a time when these individuals are at their most vulnerable.

“For these reasons, ED staff experience high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion, so it's understandable that it takes a certain personality type to function in this working environment.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords