Emergency and Disaster Nursing: Education and Training Program Info

Read about educational programs providing studies in emergency and disaster nursing. Get information about levels of study, admission requirements and courses likely to be taken in each program. Learn about career and professional certification options and employment statistics and salary details for registered nurses.

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. Programs may include a Certificate in Emergency Nursing, a Certificate in Disaster Preparedness Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing degree with an Emergency Nurse Practitioner specialization. Certificates are typically at the graduate level, with applicants expected to possess current nursing licensure.

Studies range from wound management and trauma response to emergency personnel management and disaster preparedness. Students learn to apply techniques to both children and adults in emergency situations. Master's level studies typically provide flexible schedules, as the programs mainly target working individuals. Clinical experiences are also more commonly offered at this level of study.

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.

Education Prerequisites

Certificate programs in emergency nursing 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 such a program.

Program Coursework

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
  • Wound treatment
  • Disaster nursing
  • Environmental disasters
  • Pediatric emergencies
  • Psychiatric emergencies

Employment Options and Salary Information

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

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for registered nurses should increase by 26% during the 2010-2020 decade, which was notably faster than average. The median annual wage for these professionals was $65,470 as of May 2012, 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).

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 manmade 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.

Education Prerequisites

Much like certificate programs in emergency room nursing, certificate programs in disaster preparedness nursing are only open to currently licensed RNs. Applicants should have clinical experience.

Program Coursework

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
  • Incident management system
  • Risk communication
  • Disaster health treatment plans
  • Chemical cases
  • Biological cases
  • Radiological cases
  • Nuclear cases

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

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.

Education Prerequisites

In order to gain admittance into an MSN program for emergency nurse practitioners, students must be registered nurses with at least two years of clinical experience. Educational prerequisites include an Associate of Science in Nursing, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a diploma in nursing.

Program Coursework

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
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Emergency nurse practitioner
  • Environmental emergencies
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Traumatic emergencies

Certification Options

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.

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