Emergency Room Nurse: Job & Career Info

Learn about the job responsibilities of an emergency room nurse. Explore licensing and educational requirements in addition to salary and employment outlook to make an informed decision.

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Career Definition for an Emergency Room Nurse

Emergency room (ER) nurses provide first assessments and treatments to patients experiencing medical crisis. Emergency room nursing requires quick and flexible responses to patients with serious illness and trauma, backed with extensive medical knowledge. Though ER nurses typically work alongside medical doctors, they must also be able to work independently and take leadership roles when necessary. ER nurses might also work in other fields of nursing, including home-care, geriatric care; they could also provide medical services in businesses and schools and supervise other nurses.

Education Bachelor's degree in nursing, specific ER certifications optional
Job Skills Listening, following directions, communication, adaptability, stamina, decision-making
Median Salary (2015)* $67,490 (registered nurses)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 16% (registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Emergency room nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have earned bachelor's degrees in nursing and have passed a licensing exam called the NCLEX-RN. Additional and optional certification specific to the emergency room is available by becoming a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN). Training for all emergency room nurses includes learning tasks associated with cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, gynecological, maxillofacial, neurological, orthopedic and psychological diseases.

Skills Required

Emergency room nursing requires the ability to listen to directions and the adaptability to perform a diversity of tasks and techniques. The unpredictable and demanding nature of emergency room nursing necessitates stamina, quick decision-making and attention to detail. These professionals must also be able to tackle all of these duties with caring and clear communication to the patient and their families.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for RNs is predicted to increase 16% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that in May 2015, RNs working in hospitals, including ER nurses, earned annual median salaries of around $67,490. Though it is not necessary to be a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) to work in emergency room nursing, the Emergency Nurses Association lists additional pay and more frequent opportunities for advancement as benefits of certification.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or Paramedic

For those who want to provide medical care during an emergency, a career as an EMT or paramedic is a possibility. These professionals are often the first ones to assess injury or illness, provide initial first aid and prepare the patient for transport to a medical facility. To enter this field, completion of an accredited training program is required, in addition to passing a national certification exam. All states also require licensure of EMTs and paramedics. During the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS predicts that over 58,500 new jobs will open up in this field. The BLS also reported the median salary of EMTs and paramedics was $31,980 in 2015.

Physician Assistant (PA)

If a career with more patient care responsibilities is desired, becoming a physician assistant may be the right option. Although some duties may be similar to a nurse, PAs order tests and procedures, interpret results, prescribe medications and carry out treatment procedures like setting bones. Although PAs work under the supervision of a physician, they can perform many physician duties if necessary. A master's degree is usually necessary to work in this field, and prior healthcare experience is sometimes required in order to enter a program. Licensing is also required in every state and involves education and passing an exam. The BLS projected a 30% increase in employment of physician assistants between 2014 and 2024 and estimated the 2015 median salary of these professionals to be $98,180.

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