Emergency Room Nursing Training Programs and Requirements

Emergency room nurses, also called trauma nurses, gain their initial training through nursing associate's or bachelor's degree programs, and they can ultimately earn specialized post-baccalaureate certificates. They provide preliminary emergency room care by evaluating patients and managing illness or injury.

Essential Information

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in nursing provide a solid foundation for entry-level emergency room nursing careers and prepare graduates to take the required National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain registered nurse (RN) licensure. Both programs include classroom instruction and hands-on supervised clinical practice in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. After completing these programs, students can undertake specialty training in emergency room nursing through 1-year certificate programs; some schools offer these specialty certificate programs online. Voluntary certification, such as the Certified Emergency Nurse credential, is also available.

Associate's and bachelor's degrees programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED. Most emergency nurse certificate programs are designed for those who already have a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing

This program is offered by community colleges and some universities and generally takes 2 to 3 years to complete. Based on the student's level of previous knowledge in math and science, some nursing departments may require completion of prerequisite coursework before moving on to the core curriculum. After that, students take general education classes in addition to nursing-related classes such as:

  • Nursing fundamentals and concepts
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

This degree program provides students with expanded nursing knowledge as well as training in communication and leadership skills. Many schools also offer RN-BSN programs for those who have already earned an AAS degree. In addition to core nursing classes, some schools also offer semester-long internships that allow students to shadow nursing professionals in hospitals and emergency room settings. Typical coursework topics include:

  • Healthcare ethics
  • Issues in nursing and healthcare
  • Nursing management
  • Immunology
  • Medical equipment use and maintenance

Emergency Nursing Certificate

This post-baccalaureate program is offered at some colleges and universities and can be completed in as little as one semester. Topics cover life-saving intervention, emergency room nurse procedures and pediatric emergency nursing. Before students can graduate, they must complete a specified number of practical hours in an ER department.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have specific data for trauma nurses, it predicted that all registered nurses will see a 16% increase in jobs between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that these professionals earned a mean salary of $71,000 in May 2015.

Continuing Education

Every state requires RNs to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Some states do have additional requirements, so potential emergency room nurses should contact their state board directly.

For those interested in certification, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) offers an exam that leads to the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) designation. Applicants need to be licensed RNs. It is recommended that candidates have two years of experience in the emergency room, although this is not a prerequisite. To maintain certification every four years, applicants must either complete 100 continuing education hours or retake the exam.

Professional organizations, such as the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), sponsor annual conferences for emergency room nurses. These conferences are ideal for emergency room nurses to network with others in the field. Conferences generally last 2 to 3 days and feature keynote speakers who address topics like symptom management, leadership, emergency transportation and radiological emergencies.

Emergency room nurses can further their skills by completing nurse practitioner master's degree programs which equip students with advanced knowledge and medical skills. Doctorate programs are also available for ER nurses who seek academic or research positions.

Students who want to be emergency room nurses can start their training through associate's or bachelor's degree programs in general nursing. Upon completion of a bachelor's degree program, students have the option to enroll in certificate programs to get specialized training for working as emergency room nurses.

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