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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 an advanced practice nurse, therefore working as an emergency nurse practitioner (ENP).


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.


  • 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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Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) - The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) created the CEN exam to assess and test nursing skills and knowledge.

  • Passing the exam awards additional credentials as well as the potential for increased pay or more competitive opportunities.

Additional certifications:

  • 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)
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
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Work Setting

Found in most hospitals, other facilities, and teams or units that require emergency medicine expertise

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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?