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ER Nursing: Everything You Need to Know About Being an Emergency Room Nurse

ER Nursing: Everything You Need to Know About Being an Emergency Room Nurse

There are many specialties available to aspiring nurses – each of them unique and rewarding. From working with babies to working as a telehealth nurse or as a Flight RN, you get to personalize most of the aspects of your career. You can choose the patient population you provide care for, the work environment, even the dynamism level of the job. 

Emergency Nursing remains one of the most in-demand and fulfilling career tracks for nurses among the myriad of options. Every day you go to work means a life saved. But the ER comes with its own set of challenges. It’s dynamic, but it’s also unpredictable. It’s gratifying but also tiring. You help people day in and day out, but you are also exposed to a lot of pain and suffering. Before starting your journey as an RN in the emergency department, you need to know exactly what you’re signing up for. Once you learn to embrace the challenges, you’ll discover that the professional satisfaction of working in the Emergency department is unmatched. 

Our guide is here to help you discover everything there is to know about emergency nursing. From the education and skills, you need to excel at the job to how much money you can expect to make – we can help you learn more about this wonderful career. 

How Do You Become an ER Nurse?

One of the things you ponder on when choosing a career is the road that will take you there. You feel drawn to the goals and values of emergency nursing, and you feel like you have what it takes to be a great ER nurse. So, now there’s one more question left to answer: how exactly do you become an ER Nurse? 

In order to become an Emergency Room Nurse, you first have to become a licensed nurse. These are the exact steps that will take you there. First, you enroll in a nursing school program. Upon completing it, you will sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Once you successfully pass the exam, you gain your RN licensure. After that, you can start applying for ER Nursing Jobs. 

The path to licensure seems relatively straightforward. Still, there are some decisions you need to make along the way. One of the main ones is what schooling path you’ll pursue. There are several ways to become a Registered Nurse. 

You can opt for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. This type of nursing program takes around two years to complete and is the fastest option to gaining RN licensure. Another possible course of action is enrolling in a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. A BSN will take longer – around four years – but it will prepare you more thoroughly for a nursing career.

Either one of these programs culminates with you sitting in for the NCLEX RN examination. It’s an extensive exam that tests your knowledge, critical thinking skills, and overall ability to make the best nursing judgments in any circumstance. As long as you’re a licensed Registered Nurse, you’ll be eligible to apply to most nursing positions. 

You can always advance your education at a later time in your career through nursing bridge programs. Bridge programs are an excellent option for working professionals who want to get a higher degree while working. RN-to-BSN programs are one of the most common nursing bridge programs. They are the best options for ADN-educated Registered Nurses who want to get their BSN in a short period of time and for less money. For instance, Nightingale College’s RN-to-BSN program can be completed in as little as 12 months. Moreover, it’s 100% online and career-friendly making it easier to juggle your school, work, and personal responsibilities. 

While both ADN and BSN are valid degrees for licensure, most healthcare employers will have a strong preference for BSN-trained nurses. There is no shortage of studies proving the link between BSN education and better patient outcomes, fewer failure-to-rescue rates, and lower mortality rates. While these statistics are important in all nursing areas, they’re all the more poignant in the emergency department. Also, BSN nurses have access to a broader pool of job opportunities, higher salaries, increased job satisfaction, and more autonomy. 

Explore the other benefits of getting your BSN degree

If you want to advance your education even further, you always have the option of pursuing ER nurse certifications. The certification process for ER nurses is entirely voluntary. Still, it is an excellent way to improve your nursing skills while also gaining a higher level of confidence in your practice and expertise. Certified nurses are also very respected by their peers and can expect to climb higher on the professional ladder. 

There are five main certifications for ER nurses that you could choose from depending on your interests. They are all offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). These emergency nursing certifications are:

  • CEN – Certified Emergency Nurse
  • CFRN – Certified Flight Registered Nurse
  • CPEN – Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse
  • CTRN – Certified Transport Registered Nurse
  • TCRN – Trauma Certified Registered Nurse

Discover the best nursing certifications to have in 2022!

er nurse duties

What Do Emergency Nurses Do?

It takes a whole team of professionals to care for the people’s emergency healthcare needs, and ER nurses are the linchpin that keeps the ER running successfully. Their job description is broad and complex because ER RNs deal with a great deal of unpredictability, many specific cases, and lots of dynamic situations. When you start your shift, you don’t know what patients will enter through the emergency room doors that day, so every day on the job will be unique. However, even in a fast-paced environment like the ER, you can still expect some tasks you’ll have to tackle daily. Here are some of the duties and responsibilities that will make constant appearances in your work schedule: 

  • Perform triage. When patients enter the ER, you may need to prioritize the order of care based on need, staffing levels, and acuity of the patient’s condition. 
  • Collect patient information and record data carefully and accurately.
  • Make sure you record the patient’s state throughout their stay in the hospital. You chronicle meticulously any changes in their condition, any medications you’ve administered, any actions you took towards their care.
  • Assess the patient’s condition and their state before, during, and after they have received interventions, medications, or other forms of care. 
  • Monitor the patient’s vitals. 
  • Provide personalized care to the patients that are assigned to you. 
  • Engage in patient education. You should be able to explain in easy-to-understand language what the patient needs to do to alleviate the symptoms of their condition even after they leave the hospital.
  • Partake in family education. Helping people learn how to care for their loved ones is a big part of the job. 
  • Be a team player and collaborate efficiently with other members of the healthcare team: nurses, physicians, social workers, ambulance crews, and so on. 
  • Be a patient advocate. As a nurse, it is your main duty to help and care for your patients to the best of your ability while taking their needs, wants, and values into account. 

 er nurse salary

ER vs. ICU Registered Nurses

Even though they share the common goal of caring for patients to their best ability, ER and ICU nurses are two very different nursing specialties. At the end of the day, these nurses are as different as the departments they work in. Some of the main differences are in the patient population and work environment. ER nurses deal with patients experiencing emergency health threats, and the Emergency Room is a fast-paced, chaotic, and often disorganized workplace. That would be an ICU nurse’s worst nightmare. Intensive Care Unit Nurses deal with very fragile patients, frequently only hanging to life by a thread. They are most likely ventilated, intubated, or their survival depends on life-sustaining medication drips. Such a work environment requires a great deal of organization and meticulous attention to detail.

ER Nurse vs. Trauma Nurse

Frequently the roles of ER and Trauma Nurses get confused or are used interchangeably. However, there are some slight differences in job descriptions that set these nursing roles apart. For Emergency Room nurses, for the most part, their patients are coherent, can answer questions, can move around, or drive themselves to the hospital. Trauma Nurses, however, deal with patients who are in more severe conditions. That means patients who had to be rushed into the ER with potentially life-threatening injuries, wounds, or conditions – patients who need the most urgent medical attention. Trauma Nurses will often work in a special department in the medical facility – the trauma center. 

Learn more about becoming a Trauma Nurse

Where Do Emergency Registered Nurses Work?

Emergency Nurses can find employment in a variety of settings. Most often, ER RNs will work in the emergency department of public or private hospitals. Triage centers, urgent care centers, and some trauma centers can also employ ER nurses. Additionally, you have a pretty high chance of finding an ER nurse job in medical clinics, emergency response units, poison control centers, or teaching hospitals. Different branches of the military may also be on the lookout for qualified Emergency Room Registered Nurses.

Working as an Emergency Nurse can also serve as a stepping stone towards other nursing specialties. For example, after gaining a few years’ worth of work experience as an ER nurse, you can let your nursing career soar – literally – and pursue a career in flight nursing. 

ER nurse job description

How Much Do ER Nurses Earn?

How much money you make could be a make-or-break aspect of choosing a career. That’s why it’s crucial to get an overview of your earning potential while you’re still in the research phase. 

As an Emergency Room Nurse, you can expect to earn a slightly higher salary than the national average for all Registered Nurses. ZipRecruiter, a popular online job platform, indicates that the average salary for ER Nurses is $85,704. For comparison, official data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics puts the national mean wage for RNs at $80,010. 

Bear in mind that salaries may vary significantly based on a wide range of factors. The location where you practice, education level, years of experience, and certifications are just a few of the details which can play a part in how much money you can make in this position. 

Learn more about your earning potential as an ER Nurse in each state. 

What Qualities DO ER Nurses Need?

In addition to clinical competencies and nursing knowledge, there are a few skills that you’ll need to master to become a great Emergency Room Nurse. The ER can be a stressful, high-stakes work environment, but having these competencies will help you better navigate the workplace and be a better nurse. 

Multitasking. Being able to multitask is an essential asset for ED nurses. Multitasking helps you save time while increasing efficiency. Being organized will help you multitask as it allows you to automate some of the most routine tasks. Thus, you’ll be able to handle more than one thing happening at once. You can get better at multitasking the more you practice it. At the same time, make sure you don’t stretch yourself too thin. You don’t want to experience burnout just because you keep adding to your workload. 

Calmness under pressure. Keeping your composure, even in the most stressful situations, is a must in the emergency room. ER RN positions are not for the faint of heart. You may have to deal with highly unusual problems, and some medical cases may be more unsettling than others. Regardless of the situation in the Emergency Department, you need to keep your cool and make sure your patients receive the best possible care. 

Time management is another essential skill in the ER. First of all, you have a lot of duties and responsibilities on your plate, and you need to make sure that you complete them all during your shift. Also, in the emergency department, you can expect many interruptions. A patient with a more serious condition that requires immediate attention could walk through the doors at any moment. So, you should know how to manage your time and tasks in such a way that you fulfill your responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed by them.

Interpersonal skills and teamwork. As an Emergency Nurse, a big part of your job revolves around working with other people. Great communication skills and listening to a patient’s concerns or a colleague’s suggestions will help you be a better nurse. Establishing positive relationships with your peers, working efficiently with other healthcare team members, and being able to get through to patients will prove incredible resources on your way to becoming an ER nurse. 

Stamina cannot be overlooked. Working in the ER can be quite physically demanding and emotionally draining, so you must always be on top of your game. Stamina is about being strong mentally, maintaining discipline, and not quitting even when things get complicated. Also, building physical endurance will go a long way. As an ER nurse, you can expect to be on your feet for long hours. You may have to move patients or equipment. There may be lifting involved or other duties that require some strength. Don’t discount the need to be in good physical and mental shape when embarking on your journey to become an ER nurse. 

er nurse jobs

Are You Ready to Save Lives in the ER?

ER nursing is an excellent fit for nurses who like to be challenged and want a dynamic and never-boring work environment. Nurses who are great at working in teams, who are pros at juggling tasks, and managing stress will enjoy working in the emergency room. Does that sound like you? Does the idea of being on the frontlines of care seem appealing to you?

In that case, you should consider a career as an ER Registered Nurse. Prepare yourself for the joys and demands of the emergency department by investing in quality nursing education. 

Enroll in Nightingale College’s RN-to-BSN program and reap the benefits of a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. 

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