Wright patches up ER visitors at RRMC

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vicksburg native Joanne Wright, who been an emergency room nurse for 21 years, stands Wednesday afternoon in the River Region Medical Center ER. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg native Joanne Wright, who been an emergency room nurse for 21 years, stands Wednesday afternoon in the River Region Medical Center ER. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Joanne Wright remembers her first experience as an emergency room nurse.

It was the start of the 1993 Memorial Day weekend and Wright was starting her new career as a nurse and her first day on the job at then-Parkview Hospital.

“There was a school bus wreck in Warren County,” the Vicksburg native said. “The schools were letting out and I didn’t know what I was walking into. There were nurses from the clinic, there were doctors from the clinic … there were people everywhere in the hospital, and I thought where do I clock in?

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“I was so new to it, and here was an LPN from the clinic telling me, here’s your patient and I’m like, what do I do? That got my feet wet good.”

Twenty-one years later, Wright is a staff and charge nurse at River Region Medical Center’s emergency room and getting ready to work the Labor Day weekend in the ER.

“I started in ER and I stayed in ER,” she said. “I’ve never done anything else (as a nurse).”

Wright entered nursing accidentally while considering changing careers and found she liked it.

“I actually worked in banking and finance for 15 years and decided I wanted to do something different and somebody talked me into taking a class (in nursing) and I loved it,” she said.

“It was like, ‘Come take this class with me,’ and I was looking for something different, and it’s been so wonderful, because it’s so nice to be able to help people.”

The attraction, she said, “is the excitement, the adrenaline rush; it’s feast or famine in the ER.” There is also a special relationship between the staff.

“We’re all like a family up here,” she said. “The majority of us in the emergency room have worked together for years, and on special occasions we all bring a dish and have our own feast. It’s like being with your other family.

“Sometimes it’s bad, but we always try to help each other out — split up the holidays so everybody has a chance to spend time with their family.”

She said no one holiday is more active than any other.

“All of the holidays are the same. People come home to see their parents see that they’re not doing as well as they were, and we get influxes from that,” she said. “Forth of July, we see a lot of boating industries with people getting out on the water, and this time of the year we’ll start seeing some hunting injuries and snake bites.”

When ER activity picks up, or during a disaster with multiple injuries, she said, the staff comes together and helps each other out.

“That’s what we always do in the emergency room. People don’t understand that unless you work with it. It’s like playing on a good baseball team,” she said. “We work together real well. I’ve never worked in a situation with something we can’t handle.”

As a charge nurse, Wright is responsible for keeping the activity moving in the ER. She needs to know what’s going on with each patient, moving patients, helping doctors move patients, and making room for new ones as they come.

And the education never stops.

“You think when you get out of school you can’t do any more, then you get out and you realize you haven’t learned anything until you put it in practice,” she said. “You learn something new every day here. There’s always room for growth.

“I had some of the best nurses to work with. I learned more from one nurse who was more experienced but less certified than I. She taught me so much. I couldn’t get enough,” Wright said.

“I love the ER I love helping the people of Warren County, because you know everybody.”

Knowing so many people in the area can affect her, she said, “but then when I realize they are so glad to see somebody they know an they need me as much to lean on — the family as much as the person that’s injured. But it’s really tough when you see people you’ve known all your life (come in the emergency room).”

And there is the concern over whether a family member will be a patient.

“One thing I’ve always learned through the years, whatever’s is fixing to come in, you always ask, ‘where’s my family,’” she said. “If there’s a bad accident, you’re always in the back of your head asking ‘where’s my child or where my husband is.’”

She said the biggest change since she began in the ER has been the move to technology, where computers replaced paperwork. Everything, she said, is done on computer, adding there are portable units that can be moved from room to room for charting patients, and doctors have there own station for writing reports and orders.

“Medicine,” she said, “changes every day. It’s been exciting even with the changes. We’ve had many changes.

“It was a great career, and I love doing it.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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