Emergency Room Nurse: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an emergency room nurse. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Emergency Room Nurse?

Emergency room nurse, also known as an emergency nurse or trauma nurse, is a specialized job title held by registered nurses (RNs) who provide nursing care for patients in the ER. When a patient enters the ER, they are responsible for monitoring the patient's condition, helping the doctor with the diagnosis, assisting with stabilization and minimizing pain. They also answer the questions of family members, organize transfer out of the emergency room and educate patients about next steps. Because they are faced with so many different types of patients on a daily basis, emergency room nurses must have a broad knowledge of medicine and be able to stay calm and work quickly and efficiently in a chaotic environment.

The following chart gives you an overview about becoming an emergency room nurse.

Degree Required Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Assess patients and prioritize according to severity of health condition; administer emergency medication and procedures; monitor patient status, intervene and report changes in status; update patient records
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as an RN is required; advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification may be required; professional certification in emergency nursing specialties is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2016) $62,010 for emergency room RNs**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Type of Degree Do I Need to Become an Emergency Room Nurse?

The process of becoming an RN generally includes completing a nursing degree or diploma program, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and fulfilling any additional state requirements mandated by boards of nursing. Your education options for becoming a RN include diploma programs, associate's degree programs and bachelor's degree programs.

Associate's degree programs in nursing are offered at community colleges and generally take 2-3 years to complete, while hospital-administered diploma programs generally take about three years to complete. Although associate's degree and diploma programs will qualify you to be an RN, a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree may provide the best employment opportunities.

Gaining a position as an emergency room nurse may require you to complete additional training beyond an RN degree or diploma. You could prepare for this field by completing a certificate or master's degree program in emergency nursing. Such programs may prepare you to become certified as a Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS) or Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP). You might also pursue a voluntary certification through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN), such as the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) credentials.

What Will I Learn in an Emergency Nursing Program?

An emergency nursing program teaches you skills beyond the basic care taught in general nursing programs. The curriculum focuses on assessing patients and dealing with a variety of medical emergencies. Topics of study may include fluid resuscitation, shock management and triage. You also learn to stabilize various injuries, including neurological, respiratory and thoracic issues.

You also train to manage patients who are mentally ill, have substance abuse issues or may become violent. Other types of emergencies that might be covered include natural disasters, environmental emergencies and emergency childbirths. In addition to completing classroom courses, you complete clinical requirements at a local healthcare facility, typically in an emergency room setting.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

You assess and care for emergency room patients who are admitted with urgent, life-threatening conditions, such as traumas, critical illnesses and injuries. Because this is generally a fast-paced, high-energy job, you are required to work well under pressure and think on your feet. Some emergency room nurses become qualified to work as transport nurses, a position that involves providing in-flight care for patients who are being transported to a medical facility via a plane or helicopter.

What Salary Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nursing is the largest healthcare field in the U.S. (www.bls.gov). This field is expected to see continued growth between 2014 and 2024, during which time employment opportunities for all RNs should increase by about 16%, faster than the national average. As more sophisticated procedures continue to be performed in emergency centers, job opportunities for emergency room nurses are expected to grow at a healthy rate.

In 2015, the BLS reported that the median salary of RNs was $67,490. In October 2016, PayScale.com reported that most emergency nurses earned $46,710 - $92,815; these salary figures include hourly rate, overtime and bonus pay.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A similar option is a job as an emergency nurse practitioner. Like emergency room nurses, these professionals are part of the acute care team in the ER. However, they are advanced practice nurses (NPs) who are trained to be involved more directly in patient treatment. To get this job, it is necessary to earn a master's degree and pass a certification exam. For RNs who are looking for a slower-paced environment, it is possible to pursue a career in a setting like a family clinic or nursing home.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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