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 or 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.
Becoming an emergency/trauma nurse requires earning an ADN 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.
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