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Emergency and Disaster Nursing: Education and Training Program Info

Education in emergency and disaster nursing includes studies ranging from wound management and trauma response to emergency personnel management and disaster preparedness. These programs are offered at the certificate and master's levels.

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Essential Information

Emergency and acute care nurses and nurse practitioners have the training and education necessary to provide medical care to patients in emergency rooms and to treat victims of disaster. Many RNs work their way up into positions in emergency rooms, but educational programs in this area are available. Certificates are typically at the graduate level. Master's level studies typically provide flexible schedules, as the programs mainly target working individuals.

Certificate programs in emergency nursing or disaster preparedness, as well as master's degree programs in nursing with an emergency nurse practitioner specialization, are only available for registered nurses. Individuals should have completed a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing and passed the NCLEX-RN before applying to these programs. Emergency nursing, transport registered nursing, flight registered nursing, and pediatric emergency nursing are all offered as specializations in the field. Most programs include clinical experience as part of the curriculum.


Emergency Department Nursing Certificate

Certificate programs in emergency department nursing are not common, but do exist for RNs who want to study the procedures, practices, and protocols followed by emergency nurses. They may be offered through a university's extension department. Students learn to provide immediate patient assessment for critically ill and injured patients, manage shock, stabilize respiratory functions, handle toxicological and natural disaster emergencies, oversee emergency room staff, and more.

Certificate programs in emergency nursing are vocational in nature and cover the exact skills and theories put into practice by nurses in the emergency room. Courses may include:

  • Patient assessment
  • Emergency room staff management
  • Stabilization of injuries
  • Environmental disasters
  • Pediatric emergencies
  • Psychiatric emergencies

Certificate in Disaster Preparedness Nursing

Certificate programs in disaster preparedness nursing go one step beyond programs for emergency room nursing. They are designed to prepare registered nurses to handle natural and human-made disasters, large-scale incidents or attacks, and any other type of mass casualty event. Such certificate programs prepare nurses to act as leaders during times of disaster, to educate and prepare other nurses for potential emergencies, and to develop disaster practices and procedures within healthcare facilities.

Many of the courses found within a disaster preparedness nursing certificate program cover potential disasters and reaction plans for those disasters. Examples include:

  • Defining a mass casualty incident
  • Local emergency response systems
  • Risk communication
  • Disaster health treatment plans
  • Chemical cases
  • Nuclear cases

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Master of Science in Nursing, Emergency Nurse Practitioner

Registered nurses can become nurse practitioners or clinical nursing specialists by completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nurses who are particularly interested in working in emergency room settings and treating acute care cases can gain the training necessary through an emergency nurse practitioner degree program. Students learn to provide care to patients suffering from critical injuries or illnesses and patients living through a disaster.

Students enrolled in an MSN degree program for emergency nurse practitioners spend clinical training hours learning to perform advanced suturing, administer splints and casts, handle traumatized patients, and perform joint injections. Theoretical courses cover the basics of disaster preparation, family practice, women's health, and emergency room procedures.

Many master's degree programs available for emergency nurse practitioners are offered either full-time or part-time, in order to meet the demanding schedules of professional nurses. Core and clinical classes might include:

  • Advanced health assessment
  • Advanced physiology
  • Clinical emergency decision-making
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Environmental emergencies
  • Disaster preparedness

Popular Career Options

Nurses with an educational background or training in disaster preparedness may work in several positions within healthcare facilities, emergency response agencies, or federal agencies. They may become:

  • Emergency response nurses
  • Emergency policy directors
  • Emergency coordination directors
  • Radiation emergency specialist

A registered nurse with an educational background in emergency nursing may obtain a career working in several different types of clinical healthcare settings. These may include:

  • Emergency departments
  • Urgent care centers
  • Walk-in health clinics
  • Adult internal health settings
  • Intensive care units

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for registered nurses should increase by 16% during the 2014-2024 decade, which was faster than average. The mean annual wage for these professionals was $71,000 as of May 2015, per the BLS.

Certification Options

The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers certification options to nurses working in the emergency room. The designations available include Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN), Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) and Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN).

Completing a graduate program in nursing with a focus on emergency nursing can prepare students to gain either the Adult Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) certification with a focus on emergency care or the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification. The credentials are offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Through a nursing master's degree focused on emergency nursing or certificates in emergency department nursing and disaster preparedness nursing, students can expand their nursing education to include skills and preparation to effectively administer care in the event of a disaster. There are several organizations offering different kinds of professional certification for those who complete these programs.

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