Emergency nursing has been around since the 1800s with many nurses providing emergency nursing care on the battlefields of many wars. Over the last few centuries, this profession has grown exponentially, but only in the last 35 years has the role of the emergency room nurse (ER nurse) started to look like it is today. ER nurses now have many different roles in the emergency medicine setting, such as triage, performing diagnostic testing, administering certain treatments and providing education and support to both patients and their families.
Emergency Room Nurse Salary
In the United States, emergency room nurses earn a median annual salary of $66,350. The lowest 10 percent earn an average of $52,999 per year and the top 10 percent earn an average of $80,452 each year.
Emergency room nursing tends to pay more than other nursing specialties due to the environment that nurses are working in. The ER requires immense skill and the ability to think very quickly on your feet. You are going to see patients of all ages and health statuses and you must be able to quickly complete any tasks related to them. The salary varies based on things like location of the hospital, how much experience you have, your education, if you are certified and the type of hospital you work in. For example, private hospitals tend to pay slightly more, but since the demand for ER nurses is very high in inner city hospitals, these are often the best paying.
Emergency Room Nurse Job Description
Emergency room nurses work in emergency rooms, urgent care centers and trauma centers. You will be assessing patients with minor issues like ear infections all the way up to serious, life-threatening issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, motor vehicle accidents and ruptured appendix. No day is ever the same and the ER environment is always fast-paced and it can become hectic quite quickly.
You will work directly with ER physicians and surgeons to address your patient’s needs. Daily duties vary from day to day and will also differ among different facilities. Common ER nursing tasks include:
- Patient triage
- Nursing assessments
- Medication administration
- Measuring and monitoring vital signs
- Inserting IVs and administering IV fluids and medications
- Assisting the physician with minor procedures and diagnostic testing
- Performing CPR and other life-saving measures
- Taking full medical histories
- Documenting what happened to the patient during his or her ER visit
- Identify the patient’s chief complaint
- Educating patients on their condition and providing home-care instructions
- Supporting patient’s family members
Emergency Room Nurse Education
Those hoping to become emergency room nurses must meet a few basic criterion before entering the field. These include:
- An associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited US college or university
- An active registered nursing license
- At least one year of registered nursing experience
The education component of becoming an ER nurse generally takes two to four years, with an associate degree averaging two years and a bachelor’s degree averaging four years. You will take a variety of classes and need to complete your state’s clinical requirements to graduate from a US nursing program. Typical classes include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human growth and development
Classes that generally have both a classroom and a clinical component include:
- Pediatric nursing
- Obstetrical nursing
- Medical surgical nursing
- Psychiatric nursing
- Geriatric nursing
- Acute care nursing
You will often have classes that include both a lecture and required laboratory hours. These commonly include fundamentals of nursing and health assessment.
Emergency Room Nurse Certification and Licensing
The first thing you will need to do after you graduate is pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Emergency room nurses can also benefit from other certifications including Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). There are other certificates directly related to emergency care that nurses can pursue and these include:
- Certified Emergency Nurse
- Certified Flight Registered Nurse
- Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse
- Certified Transport Registered Nurse
Most ER nurses will begin with their PALS, ACLS and Certified Emergency Nurse certifications.
PALS is granted by the American Heart Association and will require an initial class that is about 15 hours in length. This certification is renewed every two years and requires a class of around eight hours for renewal.
ACLS, like PALS, is granted by the American Heart Association and is good for two years. This advanced life support training focuses on adults. Your initial certification will take two days to complete with each day being about six hours long. When you are ready to renew, you will need to complete a seven-hour course.
The Certified Emergency Nurse certification is offered through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. To qualify you must possess the following:
- An unrestricted and current registered nursing license
- Two years of ER experience is preferred
You will need to take an examination and upon passing, this is good for a period of four years. To renew this license you must either have 100 continuing education credits in your specialty or you must complete another examination.
Emergency Room Nurse Job Outlook
Emergency room nurses can expect employment opportunities to increase by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is said to be one of the fastest growing nursing specialties. Part of the reason it is growing so rapidly is because of the large geriatric population in the United States. This population tends to have multiple chronic health issues that can become medical emergencies, such as heart disease and various neurological disorders. Falls and minor accidents also bring millions of geriatric patients into US emergency rooms each year.