Emergency room nurses work in a fast-paced environment to evaluate and treat injured or critically ill patients. As patients arrive at a hospital emergency room or stand-alone trauma center, an emergency room nurse will provide life-saving care or make them comfortable until they can be treated.
While much of the training for an emergency room nurse must take place in a clinical setting, the background knowledge can often be learned in a classroom or through online courses. Most emergency room nurses earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing before passing a national licensing examination. Another, less common, way into the nursing profession is to earn a diploma from a program that is set up in a teaching hospital.
Emergency room nurses usually hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school. They must also pass the necessary national and state examinations in order to secure employment in a hospital or trauma center. There are accelerated bachelor’s degrees in nursing degree programs that allow those who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field to earn their nursing degree faster than the four years that is usually required. A nursing candidate will take courses in anatomy, chemistry, physiology and psychology.
Emergency room nurses must be physically fit and emotionally stable in order to withstand the demands of the position. They are required to stand, lift heavy objects and walk for hours at a time. They must also stay calm in the face of life-threatening emergencies and be able to communicate with and comfort patients and their families. An emergency room nurse must be caring, responsible and detail oriented in order to be able to quickly decide the best course of action for a critically ill or injured patient. In a typical shift the nurse will:
Emergency room nurses work an 8 hour shift, but may work from 11pm to 7am or from 3pm to 11pm so that there is always staff at the hospital or trauma center. They may train to become transport nurses who administer primary treatment as the patient is flown to the hospital in a helicopter or airplane.
The median earnings for an emergency room nurse were $58,550 in May of 2006 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The job outlook is very good, with employment growing much faster than average—23% through 2016, particularly in stand-alone trauma centers.