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Emergency Department Nurse (ED)

An Emergency Department Nurse (ED), or Emergency Room Nurse (ER), is responsible for assessing, triaging, and treating patients that come through the hospital doors every day; this could entail treating injury, trauma, or acute-onset symptoms.

Education Requirements

Just like any other nursing specialty, ED/ER nurses must have obtained an ADN or BSN degree in nursing as well as have passed their state’s NCLEX-RN exam to practice emergency medicine. Whether an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) is required changes on a hospital-to-hospital basis.

How to advance/career pathway

One way to advance your career as an ED nurse is to take the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) — or Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) — exam following one or two years of clinical experience (most who pass have at least two-three years of ED experience). Additionally, an ED-focused RN could return to school to obtain a master’s degree as a advanced practice nurse, therefore working as a emergency nurse practitioner (ENP).

RESPONSIBILITIES

ED nurses must quickly assess and begin treatment (often in consultation with a physician) of incoming patients, prioritizing patient care based on need, available staffing, and patient acuity. In short, their job is to assess and patch up a patient as quickly as possible before sending them home or moving them to acute care or the ICU for continued monitoring.

MOST COMMON CASES

  • Abdominal pain (acute appendicitis, gastroenteritis)
  • Back pain
  • Broken bones or sprains
  • Chest pains
  • Contusions and cuts
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Fever
  • Skin infections
  • Toothaches
  • Trauma or fractures
  • Respiratory distress (pneumonia, infections, asthma exacerbation) 
  • Allergic reaction 

How to become a

Emergency Department Nurse (ED)

To become an ED nurse, you must:

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN course in nursing
  2. Successfully pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to acquire your RN
  3. Apply to and be working in an emergency room/department 
  4. After ample experience, pass the CEN exam to become a board certified emergency nurse

Specialty Groups and Communities

Emergency Nurses Association 

  • Mission: “The ENA mission is to advance excellence in emergency nursing. Our vision is to be the premier organization for the emergency nursing community worldwide.”
  • Cost: $105-126, annually, depending on your state of residence.
  • Perks: As a member, you have access to 20% off all educational and merchandise purchases, including a variety of emergency nurse online courses.

The Pros

  • Rewarding (you often seen rapid improvement in patients in short periods of time)
  • Variety (no two days are alike, so there’s always something new going on)
  • Opportunities for learning (few specialties provide such a wide array of opportunities for learning in different situations)

The Cons

  • Acutely stressful and physically draining due to the constant influx of patients that are present due to a combination of violent, tragic, or upsetting circumstances
  • While you are exposed to many different types of illnesses and trauma, you do not acquire the specialization knowledge that you would acquire on a burn unit, for example (we like to say that ED nurses know a little about a lot of things, rather than a lot about one specific disease process)
  • With the fast-paced nature of the ED, your patient turnover is high, making it more difficult (although not impossible) to build lasting relationships with your patients and their families
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Personality Traits

ED nurses must be quick on their feet, adaptable, calm, high-level thinkers that flourish in organized chaos.

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Average Salary

The average annual salary of an ED/ER nurse in the United States is approximately $77,730. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) - The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) created the CEN exam to assess and test the skills and knowledge of emergency nurses. Passing the exam awards additional credentials as well as the potential for increased pay or more competitive opportunities. Additionally, you can get your Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC), Advanced Trauma Care for Nurse (ATCN), Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC) Crisis Prevention Institution (CPI), Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), Emergency Nurse Orientation Curriculum (ENOC), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and Basic Life Support (BLS) certifications.

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Work Setting

ED nurses are found in virtually every hospital as well as other facilities or teams that require emergency medicine expertise. Regardless of your location, your day-to-day typically entails short, but critical, relationships with patients, variable types of conditions treated, high stress, and a strong critical care focus.

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be an ED Nurse? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does an Emergency Department Nurse Do?