It goes without saying that working in the ER is not for the faint of heart. However, it’s also a work environment full of extremes; things can be intolerably slow and boring one minute then transform in a moment to a flurry of activity with several individuals in need of immediate attention. Functioning in this type of setting requires a special type of RN – one with exceptional flexibility and adaptability, a good sense of humor, and the capability to handle highly stressful situations while contributing to an interdisciplinary team.
Emergency/trauma nurses are often the “first line of defense” when it comes to medical care. They must quickly assess and treat patients in urgent and often life-threatening situations whether they’re working in a hospital’s emergency department, at an emergent care center, as a member of an EMS/prehospital transport team, within a prison/correctional facility, or in a warzone as part of a military medical support detachment.
If you’re looking for the type of healthcare role that will allow you to connect with patients, emergency/trauma nursing may not be for you. It’s important to treat ailments/injuries as quickly as possible and then move onto the next person in need (otherwise the waiting area would be overflowing). This fast pace is often what draws professionals to this specialty.
The Chicago Tribune recently profiled Betty Washington, who served as an ER nurse for many years. “You see people come and go. That’s what you want. You hate to check a patient in for the night. You love when the kid comes in with a sprained finger and is able to get it wrapped and then be sent back home.” Although the short times spent with patients is simply part of the position as an ER nurse, Washington also described the intense nature of the role: “There’s something about working in the ER that puts you on edge. You’re always ready for that big call to come. One of the girls I used to work with said we were like jungle cats, always waiting behind the trees, ready to pounce."
Becoming an emergency/trauma nurse requires earning an ASN or BSN degree combined with RN licensure and achievement of the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) designation through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Related professional development opportunities include Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN), Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), and Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN) as well as the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) offered through the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).
This career path is in high demand because of the increased need for qualified healthcare professionals following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 19% growth for RNs in general (2012 to 2022) and the market for emergency nurses with graduate degrees is even stronger. In terms of average annual salary, emergency department nurses ($64K) trail only primary care RNs ($86K) in earning power.
Emergency Nurses Association – Why Emergency Nursing?
Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow – Emergency Nurse
Faye Everson, RN, CEN & Gail Pisarcik Lenehan, EdD, RN, FAAN, FAEN – So You Want to be an Emergency Nurse?
Marco Buscaglia – Ready for Action: ER Nurses Always Prepared for Fast-Paced Action
Nurse Journal – What is the Salary Outlook for ER Trauma Nurse?