People of KHSC: ED nurse Bret Linton

News / Emergency Care

Nothing conveys trust quite like putting your life in someone else’s hands. When people are critically ill in the Emergency Department (ED), they often have little to no time to build trust in the health-care providers they are facing for the first time. The confidence that develops quickly with patients and between coworkers is what Bret Linton says is the best thing about being an ED nurse.

“Having a strong sense of empathy and patience is what starts to build the trust needed to form effective, and usually short-term, relationships with patients in the ED. Acknowledging people’s concerns and showing them that they are not “just another heart attack” or “problem to fix” is a good foundation.

“When I started my nursing career seven years ago, I was quite a shy new graduate and that contrasted wildly with the loud, fast-paced, chaotic Emergency Department. Over the years, many trusted coworkers have helped me grow out of my shell. Despite my initial shyness, I was hooked after my first nursing student shift in the ED. I knew I wanted to be a part of this impressive team that has so many different health-care disciplines and community services collaborating to piece together patients’ stories leading up to their ED visits and get the best possible outcomes for them.

“Nursing is truly a balancing act of art and science, and the controlled chaos of the Emergency Department pushes that statement to its limit. One moment you are stressed between your skills and knowledge while you provide care to a critically ill patient and communicate effectively with your coworkers. The very next moment you are speaking to a family member of a totally different patient who is wondering what you think will happen next for their loved one.

“Thinking a few steps ahead while staying in the moment helps with remaining calm, and conveying calm in situations that are anything but is how people working in the ED set the tempo for guiding the course of care for a patient, especially in true emergency situations where we are trying to save someone’s life.

“No day is ever the same in the ED. One shift may start off with the routine of scrambling to find a space for paramedics only to find out that triage needs a bed right now. After you have spun around three times you catch your breath and realize you have multiple people to whom you need to provide dignified nursing care in the hallway or other unconventional locations.

“Generally, patients understand. Often times we need to make decisions under the constraint of our environment and are apologizing for things that are out of our control, and it weighs on all of us.

“While we are constantly reevaluating our priorities in our chaotic work environment, trying to make sure we identify the high-risk patients among the crowd, the one thing that never changes is the trust my coworkers and I have in each other and the goal we have to provide the best possible care.”

In addition to serving the Kingston area, the Emergency Department at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s Kingston General Hospital site is the trauma centre for serious injuries that happen throughout southeastern Ontario and is the regional gateway to specialized care for serious illnesses such as strokes and heart failure.

It’s important to use the ED wisely so that people who need the specialty of Emergency Medicine the most have timely access to this life-saving care. To help you go to the right place for the right care, visit