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Allergoloy-immunology – an exciting field offering independent work for nurses


Allergology-immunology is a diverse, fast developing and promising field where nurses are strong partners to doctors. 5-11 June was World Allergy Week. Irina Sergejeva, Head of Nursing in our Centre for Allergology and Immunology, tells us about the role of nurses in patient treatment.

Irina Sergejeva

Allergology-immunology is a diverse, fast developing and promising field where nurses are strong partners to doctors. 5-11 June was World Allergy Week. Irina Sergejeva, Head of Nursing in our Centre for Allergology and Immunology, tells us about the role of nurses in patient treatment.

Why did you decide to study medicine? Why did you want to become a nurse?

My journey in the field of medicine began in Tallinn Health Care College after high school. I chose between two fields: midwifery and nursing. I realised midwifery wasn’t for me during my interview, but nursing seemed interesting and the interview went well. I also applied to the University of Tartu to study to become a doctor, but there was too much competition.

I didn’t really know what was behind the word ‘medicine’ at the start. Nobody in my family was connected to the field, but my parents’ influence played a large role in my choice.

How long have you been working as a nurse?

14 years now. I started work at East Tallinn Central Hospital right after college. First, I worked in the Centre of Emergency Medicine for six years.

Now, I’ve been working at the Centre of Allergology and Immunology for eight (first as a nurse and then as head of nursing). While working at the Centre of Emergency Medicine, I realised I wanted regular daytime shifts and saw that the Centre of Allergology and Immunology was looking for a nurse. They had a new children’s allergologist and needed a new nurse. I applied, went to the interview and decided it could be a good place to work and further develop. Two weeks later, there I was. Time has shown that it was the right decision.

How did you end up working at our hospital?

I was doing my internship and they were looking for a nurse in the emergency medicine department. I thought, why not, and stayed in ETCH.

What do you like at ETCH?

Thinking of the Centre of Allergology and Immunology I work in, I definitely like the people here. We really care for each other and are always ready to help each other. I have colleagues with a great sense of humour. The work is interesting and diverse. There’s space to improve, as the field itself is new. I would like to further develop the field and train new nurses. Our centre’s director is the kind of person who is always trying something new. When people are excited, they’re ready to try new things, new projects.

I like that there are different profiles in both the ER and the Centre of Allergology and Immunology, so you can do all kinds of things in your work. We rotate between all the different procedures in our centre. Our patients include both children and adults.

What do nurses do in the Centre of Allergology and Immunology?

I’m both head of nursing and a nurse, so my work is divided between administrative and practical work. As head of nursing, I create work schedules and appointment schedules, coordinate daily nursing work, order medications and tools and take care of anything else that comes up. As a specialist nurse, I do private appointments and diagnostic and treatment procedures.

We provide both outpatient and day care at the centre. Our nurses do a lot of independent work, so it’s important that they are good at critical thinking, decision-making and both thinking and acting fast.

We have immunodeficient patients in day care, for example, who need regular antibody replacement therapy. We also do allergen provocation tests for various medications, insect toxins and foods, if necessary. For procedures like this, the nurse has to be very good at evaluating the patient’s condition and able to make fast decisions.

We provide out-patient treatment and procedures to patients of all ages, children as well as adults. We conduct skin tests and respiratory examinations, teach patients how to use inhalers and adrenaline injections and provide vaccinations and biological and allergen immunotherapy.

The number of diagnostic procedures carried out can vary widely throughout the day. It depends on which patients happen to have appointments. If a doctor has sent the patient for an examination, the nurses carry it out, monitor the patient, check the results and forward them to the doctor. All of these tasks take time and doctors can take in other patients while the nurses are carrying out examinations. The doctors are always available to us. During provocation tests where we trigger allergic reactions, for example, the risk of anaphylactic shock is high and it’s important that both the nurse and the doctor are always available.

All nurses have learnt to do all procedures in the field, so we can rotate our tasks and all of us have the opportunity to keep developing our skills and learning new things.

Do you have favourite activities that you enjoy most in your job?

The most interesting and enjoyable parts of my job are counselling patients and teaching because they allow me to apply my experience and test my teaching abilities. I have empathy and knowledge to offer my patients.

What advice would you give to a young person trying to choose a field and wondering whether medicine is right for them?

If you have empathy and a desire to help others, you should consider medicine. I can’t imagine someone with no ability to empathise working in this field. Of course, we need intelligent and talented people to educate and train, and we hope those people will stay and work with us, but they have to feel like the job is right for them.

Name three reasons you enjoy working at ETCH.

We have a strong team, good people and a great variety of training opportunities in addition to our mandatory training, which I haven’t noticed in other institutions.

What do you in your spare time?

I like going on walks alone, listening to music and exercising because physical exercise helps me de-stress and relax my body. Various beauty procedures can help achieve this, too. I love spending time with my friends and colleagues outside of work. My colleagues and I visit each other and spend time with each other’s families, the doctors and nurses together. It’s great for enjoying nature and each other’s company, as we have the time and opportunity to socialise freely.

It’s also important not to bring work home and to delegate your tasks and share your struggles with others. You can take advantage of the psychological help offered by ETCH’s external partner. This really came at the right time because with the COVID situation, everyone has felt the stress pile up.

Most importantly, you mustn’t forget yourself because as long as you can help yourself, you can help others!

Irina Sergejeva

Irina Sergejeva töö