Duties and Responsibilities of Emergency Nurses: Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an emergency nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

An emergency nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who provides initial care and treatment to emergency or trauma patients who are severely ill or injured and need immediate attention. The job outlook for emergency nurses is good and specialization is usually not required, but their responsibilities are rigorous. Like other RNs, emergency nurses must complete nursing school and become licensed.

Required Education Completion of nursing school
Other Requirements Licensure required by all states
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% for all registered nurses
Average Salary (2014)* $69,790 for all registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties and Responsibilities of Emergency Nurses

Most commonly working in a hospital's emergency department, emergency nurses must be able to think and act quickly to assess and treat patients who suffer from a wide range of injuries or illnesses. Using both general and specific health care knowledge, the emergency nurse is the first person to see and treat these patients. These nurses provide initial assessments that are passed on to emergency room doctors and other physicians.

These RNs treat a large number of cases each day, and they must be ready for patients of any age with any condition. For this reason specialization is rare and more general knowledge is valued. There are, however, some specialization areas for emergency RNs, including pediatrics, geriatrics and trauma.

It is the responsibility of the emergency nurse to provide care and make accurate assessments in high-stress and possibly life-threatening situations. Emergency nurses must possess the emotional stability to cope with these conditions and remain calm and sympathetic as they perform their duties.

Career Info for Emergency Nurses

After obtaining their RN license, those looking for work as an emergency nurse have a variety of career options available. They can seek work in hospital emergency departments, emergency care centers, physicians' offices, highly populated specialty areas like sports arenas or cruise ships, or emergency transport vehicles such as ambulances or helicopters.

Employment Outlook

Job prospects for emergency nurses are excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nursing employment in all areas is expected to grow by about 19% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This is faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations during this period.


For career advancement, emergency nurses can consider certification and continuing education courses from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). The BCEN offers four certification exams for emergency and emergency transport nurses, including the basic Certified Emergency Nurse exam. All certification exams require an active RN license, and the advanced exams require at least two years' experience. The ENA offers three training courses in pediatric and trauma emergency care (www.ena.org).

Salary Information

According to the BLS, the national average salary for an RN was $69,790 as of May 2014. Salary can vary depending on medical setting. The majority of RNs work in general medical and surgical hospitals and earned an average salary of $71,640 in 2014.

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