Working as an emergency room (ER) nurse can be one of the most challenging yet most rewarding positions in all of nursing. Along with ICU nursing, ER nursing is considered one of the highest levels of nursing. ER nurses must generally have a wider knowledge base than most nurses and treat every kind of disease imaginable in every kind of patient.
What Does An ER Nurse Do?
An ER nurse treats patients who come into the emergency room. ER nursing generally involves:
- Performing an initial assessment of the patient’s condition
- Ensuring that tests are performed to evaluate what is causing the patient’s complaint
- Treating the patient using medications and other treatments necessary to stabilize them
- Categorizing how urgently each patient’s condition is and how serious their complaints are.
ER nurses will treat a wide variety of patients, from those who walk into the ER with a minor fever and only require a pill to those who come in by ambulance after being in a serious accident. The unpredictable, fast-paced environment of the ER is one of the factors that draws most ER nurses to a role in this environment.
ER Nurse Job Description
ER nurses’ job descriptions may vary based on the particular ER that they work in or their role in that ER. The job description of an ER nurse will generally include the following components:
- Accurately assessing diverse patient populations of any age
- Correctly performing and documenting initial and ongoing assessments
- Identifying patient needs
- Participating in a multidisciplinary team to efficiently provide patient care
- Implementing a patient care plan and revising it as necessary
- Prioritizing nursing interventions based on patient acuity and available resources
- Providing patient teaching and education to promote self-care after discharge
- Coordinating discharge or continuing patient care as appropriate
ER Nurse Responsibilities
The ER nurse role is similar to the role of other areas of nursing but has a strong focus on providing initial, stabilizing care. ER nurse duties and responsibilities essentially involve beginning the initial care of the patient, stabilizing them, and either discharging them home or transferring them to an acute or long-term care environment.
An ER nurse’s role includes assessing patients, often with little to no background information. The ER nurse must then ensure that ordered tests and treatments are completed, often helping to coordinate care and collaborating with the ER doctor on what tests and treatments may be necessary.
ER nurses must also provide teaching to their patients, providing information about a wide variety of conditions to numerous patients and their families in any given shift. The role of the ER nurse also involves triaging and prioritizing care amongst many patients with different levels of illness or injury.
ER Nurse Requirements
The only absolute requirement for working as an ER nurse is licensure as a nurse. Almost all ER nurse positions require an RN license. While technically any nurse can get a position as an ER nurse, most ER positions will require that the nurse has some acute care experience prior to working in the ER.
While an RN license is typically the only requirement to get a position as an ER nurse, there are many other aspects that may help a nurse who is considering an ER position. Some of the factors that increase your chances of getting an ER position include:
- Previous ER experience
- A bachelor’s level degree or higher
- Certification as an ER nurse (CEN) or as a trauma nurse (TCRN)
- Experience working with both pediatric and adult patients
- Critical care experience
While these factors can help gain an ER position, having any of them is not always necessary.
ER Nurse Skills
A nurse who is working in the ER will need a high skill level in many areas, including:
- Communication – The ER environment is inherently disorganized. Good communication skills are essential to ensuring smooth, safe care.
- Flexibility – Things change frequently in the ER. Flexibility is essential to adapt to changes as they happen.
- Prioritization – Different patients vary significantly in their illnesses and injuries. The ability to correctly prioritize care is vital.
- Wide base of clinical knowledge – Every disease imaginable comes through the ER. A wide base of knowledge is important to recognize the different conditions that will be encountered.
- Level-headed – Rapidly developing emergencies are common in the ER. A calm, level-headed demeanor is important to respond correctly during emergencies.
- Multitasking – ER nursing involves juggling multiple patients and tasks. The ability to multitask is a vital part of ER nursing.
- Interpersonal skills – Calming psychiatric patients, children, and others or clearly communicating with family members requires excellent interpersonal skills.
- Assertiveness – In the fast-paced environment of the ER, the ER nurse must be assertive to make the needs of their patients known.
- Organized – Being poorly organized in an inherently disorganized environment can result in dangerous mistakes.
ER Nurse Salary
Emergency room nurse salaries tend to be higher than other nursing roles but only slightly. The salary of an ER nurse will vary significantly based on the location of the ER and the experience of the nurse. Travel ER nurse positions also tend to pay significantly better than staff nurse positions. ER nurses who hold their CEN certification may make more than nurses with similar experience who do not.
ER Nurse Job Outlook
Employment of RNs is expected to grow by 9% each year between now and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), making it one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. While the need for nurses is growing, statistics show that about 30% of nurses are currently considering leaving bedside nursing. The growth of the need for nurses combined with high attrition rates means that the need for more nurses is likely to continue to expand significantly into the near future.
While nursing outlook statistics do not typically address ER nursing specifically, the ER does have a high level of burnout due to being a more demanding area of nursing. ER nursing is more likely than other areas of nursing to be affected by attrition, leading to a promising job outlook for future ER nurses.
ER nurse jobs are not for everyone but offer an exciting and rewarding career option for those who choose to work in this area. Transitioning from medical surgical nurse jobs or most other types of nursing into the ER does offer a more fast-paced environment and the opportunity to grow your skill set.