Medical emergencies can be a nurse's worst nightmare or an opportunity to use his or her skills and knowledge to help people in need. All you have to do is Google "off-duty nurse saves" and the results will be full of nurses who have provided lifesaving assistance to an injured person. The key is to be observant, prepared and confident in your skills.
Nursing skills and knowledge aren't left at the door of the hospital. So it's a good idea to be observant and mentally prepared for moments when you may be needed. Watch for people that seem like they may lose consciousness or be having a heart attack. These symptoms include swaying, inappropriate sweating, shaking or looking distressed. Use your training and power of deduction to anticipate what you may be called upon to do.
It is also a great idea to have supplies available. The American Red Cross sells key chains that contain CPR face shields and gloves. They are also available from other retailers, but the idea is that if you were called upon to render aid, you would also be personally protected. An entire first aid kit that is kept in your car can also prove helpful.
When you do respond to medical emergencies, make the first step delegating that someone call for help. There is only so much a nurse can do with limited resources, so getting help will improve the chances that the victim will survive.
Only do what you have been trained to do, and do it properly. Every RN must have a current CPR certification, so pay attention in class and follow the American Heart Association's guidelines. Do what you know as well as you can, and follow your best judgment. Don't move victims of car accidents, if possible, because there may be a spinal cord injury that requires stabilization. In other situations, look for medical alert bracelets to help determine what you should do next. Remember your ABCs: Airway, Breathing, Circulation. It is tempting to get distracted by profuse bleeding, but if the victim isn't able to breathe because of a blocked airway, then stopping the bleeding will not help.
The skills and knowledge that you acquire at nursing school and through your professional experience will best prepare you to save lives during these medical emergencies. Mental preparedness, knowledge and confidence can lead you to be the nurse who saves the day.