Emergency room (ER) nurses are equipped to deal with patients with severe injuries, trauma, and other unstable medical conditions. A career in ER nursing is a high-energy and demanding role in the nursing profession. ER nurses may work in a variety of capacities and types of emergency medicine. There are also several types of ER nurse roles: trauma, code, triage, disaster response, emergency preparedness, flight, critical-care transport, pediatric ED, burn center, geriatric ED, military, and charge.
Emergency room nurses are registered nurses who care for patients of all ages. In the fast-paced emergency department, nurses assess, monitor, and treat patients experiencing a medical crisis.
ER Nurse Education
Before you can work as an emergency room nurse, you need to be a registered nurse, according to the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing’s eligibility the certified emergency nurse exam. You can become a registered nurse by completing an accredited nursing program, then obtaining a license to practice in the state where you practice. There are three primary paths you can take to earn a nursing degree: a diploma program, associate’s degree program, bachelor’s degree program, or a masters in nursing.
A diploma program in nursing can be obtained from a vocational school or community college. This program takes about 18 months to two years to complete.
An associate’s degree program in nursing can be completed in about two to three years from a community college.
A bachelor’s degree program in nursing takes four years to complete from a college or university.
After graduating from an accredited nursing program, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse.
Experience and Certifications
Most employers in ER departments require that registered nurses have at least one and preferably two years experience in critical-care nursing before working in the emergency room. Spending time volunteering or observing in the ER department can help prepare you for a position as an emergency room nurse.
Nurses working in the ER may also need to obtain additional certifications and skills. Many ER departments require emergency nurses to hold current certifications in both advanced cardiovascular life-support and pediatric advanced life-support techniques. Some ER departments expect their nurses to obtain additional certifications in EKG interpretation skills, phlebotomy skills, central line insertion skills, advance cardiac monitoring, and trauma nursing.
After working as a nurse in the emergency room for two years, ER nurses can further their education by passing the Certified Emergency Nurse exam offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). Nurses who pass this test may be eligible for a salary increase or job promotion. ER nurses may also pursue advanced nursing careers, because of the many patient types they have cared for and advanced assessment skills they develop.
The geographical location where the ER nurse is employed impacts the nurse’s salary. ER nurses are first and foremost registered nurses, so we pulled information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for registered nurses. The BLS on registered nurses’ pay reports that in May 2018, RNs in government earned an average salary upwards of over $78,000 while RNs in hospitals at all levels earned over $73k.
Unique Work Environment
Although ER nurses have an exciting job, there are parts of the job that can be challenging. Nurses in this area must be effective problem solvers, familiar with a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions, have excellent assessment skills, and work effectively with all members of the health care team in a fast-moving, high-stress atmosphere.
Sometimes working in the ER can be physically and emotionally demanding. ER nurses are at risk for acquiring occupational injuries, including back and neck injuries, developing burnout, exposure to a blood-borne or airborne pathogens, or unmanaged stress that results from caring for severely injured or ill patients.