Quick Facts :
Emergency Room Nurse

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Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses, May 2017

info-icon ADN or BSN
info-icon $73,550 Annual Wage
info-icon 15% Job Growth

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What Is an ER Nurse?

Emergency nurses, along with other emergency medical professionals, are required to work in fast-paced and often stressful environments. However, most of these nursing professionals will argue that despite the enormous amount of responsibility and expectations piled on them, they ultimately have the most rewarding careers in the nursing field.

Emergency nurses are known by many names, including trauma nurses and critical care nurses. Regardless of their titles, these nursing professionals provide a very important medical service. Along with other emergency medical professionals, like paramedics and physicians, these nurses provide treatment for patients in emergency medical situations.

On any given shift in a busy facility, an emergency medical nurse and her team will often be faced with a wide range of different medical emergencies. These may include illnesses, as well as injuries, form accidents or crimes. In few common situations an ER nurse may encounter include poisonings, dangerously high fevers, broken bones, drug overdoses, car accidents, stab wounds, gunshots, heart attacks, and strokes – just to name a handful.

Additionally, an emergency nurse will usually treat a wide demographic as well. For instance, one moment they might be treating an infant, while an elderly patient waits for them in the next room. They also treat patients from all different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

Working as an emergency nurse can be nerve-racking and emotionally rattling. It also requires you to work insanely long hours in an environment with a hint of danger, due to the fact that you are exposed to a number of different types of pathogens and patients. However, if you’re looking for a fast-paced nursing career in which you can truly make a difference, a career as an emergency nurse might be the perfect option for you.

What Does an ER Nurse Do?

An emergency room nurse’s shift often starts out like any other nurse’s shift – by punching the time clock. A few moments into the shift, however, it becomes clear that an emergency nurse’s job is nothing like that of any other type of nurse.

Emergency nurses must be able to assess each of their patients quickly and as accurately as possible. During this assessment, they must determine which patients need medical attention faster than others. For example, an unconscious man who was in a serious car accident will take precedence over an infant with a low-grade fever, even if the infant was “first in line”.

The first step that an emergency nurse and her team must take when faced with a patient in critical condition is to stabilize that patient. This means that the team works to ensure that the patient’s condition will not deteriorate, or worsen. patients are considered stable when their airways are clear, hemorrhaging has been controlled, and fractures have been immobilized. In some cases, patients might also need to be treated for shock before they are considered in stable condition.

When trying to stabilize patients, emergency room nurses will often be called upon to perform any number of medical procedures. They must be familiar with these procedures and relatively confident that they can perform them. Some of these procedures may include

  • starting intravenous lines,
  • administering medication,
  • transfusing blood,
  • first aid,
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation,
  • rescue breathing,
  • bag-valve-mask ventilation,
  • intubation,
  • tracheotomies,
  • suturing,
  • setting broken bones, and
  • delivering babies.

Emergency nurses should also be knowledgeable about diagnostic tests and procedures, such as electrocardiograms and x-rays.

Working as an emergency nurse is a career that is often filled with stress and long hours. However, at the end of the day, you can head home knowing that you’ve most likely helped at least some of your patients live to see another day.

Where Do Emergency Nurses Work?

Some of the most common settings for emergency nurses include hospital emergency rooms, triage centers, urgent care centers, and trauma centers. However, as an emergency nurse, you will also usually be able to find employment with clinics, emergency response units, poison control centers, prisons, and even the different branches of the military.

How Do I Become an Emergency Nurse?

Once you decide that an emergency nurse career is the right choice for you, you’ll need to take the steps necessary to become a registered nurse. This means that you’ll need to earn your nursing degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). You can also choose to continue your education, earn your master’s degree, and become an advance practice nurse.

Experience working in emergency medical situations is a must when pursuing an emergency nursing career. You can gain this experience by opting to work as a “floating nurse” in your hospital’s emergency room, or by assisting teams of paramedics.

Certification as an emergency nurse is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended, as employers often favor applicants that made an effort to take these extra steps. To become certified as an emergency nurse, you’ll need at least two years of experience working in an emergency medical setting, such as an emergency room. You will then qualify to sit for the Certified Emergency Nurses Examination, which is administered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.

Additional Resources for Emergency Room Nurses