In the ER, time moves quickly and there’s not a lot of time to adjust. One minute, you might work with a critically declining patient who has been in a major car accident. The next, you could see a patient with a common cold.
Every day in the ER is different, and ER nurses must be able to adapt and respond to new situations at a moment’s notice. Although working in the ER might be too fast-paced for some nurses, I have found it to be an incredibly rewarding field. As an ER nurse, I have learned valuable leadership, communication and critical thinking skills, while also expanding my nursing knowledge and expertise in a variety of specialties.
What do ER nurses do?
Along with other first responders and emergency medical professionals, ER nurses work quickly to provide the best possible care for patients who might be suffering from life-threatening injuries or illness.
ER nurses work in a variety of settings, from Level 1 trauma centers to rural hospitals or clinics. We treat a variety of injuries, illnesses and complications and work with patients of all ages and backgrounds.
Due to rapid patient turnover, ER nurses also work across several medical disciplines. Throughout my nursing career, I have gained valuable professional experience and knowledge in several different areas of the nursing field, from trauma to pediatrics.
What does it take to be an ER nurse?
ER nurses should have good communication and collaboration skills. You need to quickly build rapport with a patient in order to complete an initial assessment and work with a team of doctors and other nurses to make sure the patient receives appropriate care.
Strong critical thinking skills are also essential for ensuring optimal patient care, especially when there are lives are at stake. ER nurses need to be confident in their knowledge and training, but also use good judgment to act in the best interests of the patient, and ask for guidance from other members of the medical team when necessary.
Working with critical patients, I learned quickly how to adapt to urgent situations, work autonomously and think at a higher level.
How do I become an ER nurse?
The ER taught me that nursing is a profession that requires lifelong learning. I decided to pursue an advanced nursing degree to help expand my nursing knowledge so that I can provide my patients with the best possible care. I have also learned from working with other medical professionals and by participating in continuing education activities.
ER nurses are registered nurses (RNs) and must obtain at least an associate’s degree in nursing (ASN). Many ER nurses go on to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and additional certifications for specialized care, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced cardiac, pediatric, and newborn life support. Some hospitals also recommend a Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) certification.
Today, as an associate nursing professor at Herzing-Madison, I use my ER knowledge and experience to help students develop skills for a successful nursing career.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.