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Emergency Room Nurse: Career Summary, Job Outlook and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become an emergency room nurse. Learn about job duties, education requirements, wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Does an Emergency Room Nurse Do?

The nursing profession is constantly expanding from private nurses to home care, nursing homes to military medics. The emergency room is the front line of all hospital nursing and emergency room nurses are a strong breed who handle the worst cases at all hours in those hospitals around the nation.

Emergency room nurses are registered nurses (RN) who provide the initial assessment, diagnosis, and care for incoming patients at emergency care facilities. The following chart gives you an overview of the requirements for a career as an emergency room nurse.

Degree Required Post-secondary diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Assess patients and prioritize based on the urgency of care needed; take patient vital signs and record in the patient records; administer medication and treatment; assist the doctor with examination and treatment
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required; board certification in emergency room nursing is available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 12% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (May 2018) $71,730*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Responsibilities as an Emergency Room Nurse?

Emergency room nurses work in emergency rooms and trauma units. They provide the initial assessment, stabilization and critical care to patients who require immediate attention. They assist doctors during clinical and emergency room procedures. Some emergency room nurses work as transport nurses in medical helicopters, airplanes, and ambulances, and they assist in relocating critical patients from disaster locations to hospitals.

What Degree Should I Get?

An emergency room nurse is a certified nurse who has received specialized training in emergency, trauma and life care support. To become a certified emergency room nurse, you must earn an associate's or a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. Coursework for certified emergency nurses is part of a 2- or 4-year degree program in nursing with a specialization in critical or trauma care. Your curriculum typically includes pharmacology, health assessment, and pathophysiology as well as a hands-on practicum in a hospital emergency care unit. Emergency room nurses will also be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic cardiac life support (BCLS).

What Certification Do I Need?

After you complete an accredited nursing program, you'll need to be licensed as a registered nurse. The general exam for all registered nurses is known as the NCLEX-RN exam. Once you become a registered nurse and gain some experience, you'll need to get the emergency room nursing certification. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing provides a special exam that will test you on a variety of emergency room procedures and on specialized knowledge of how to handle respiratory, cardiac and neurological emergencies.

What Is My Career and Salary Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing was expected to be one of the fastest-growing professions between 2018-2028, with growth projected at 12%. According to the BLS, as of May 2018, registered nurses working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned a mean annual wage of $77,730. Nurses with bachelor's degrees generally have better job prospects in both public and private healthcare sectors than those with only a diploma or an associate's degree.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Emergency room nurses are required to be registered nurses (RNs) with at least an associate's degree, though employers may require the completion of a bachelor's degree program. Related professions that require at least an associate's degree or certain certificate training include medical technicians, EMTs, and paramedics, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses. Careers as nurse anesthetists, midwives, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants require the successful completion of a master's program. All these fields require nurses to work closely with hospital staff and medical doctors in specialty areas.