Is a Career in ER Nursing Right for You?


Is a Career in ER Nursing Right for You?

By Kelly Lanigan, RN

Becker’s Hospital Review reported in 2016 that there are 136.3 million ER visits annually in the United States

ER nurses are a unique subset of healthcare providers that serve as a link to emergent and often life-saving care in their communities. This group of professionals plays an essential role in the multidisciplinary team approach that is the foundation of emergency department care across the United States. 

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Emergency Room Nursing Duties

Emergency room nursing duties are broad and may continuously shift. ER nursing is highly dependent on the ability to triage or prioritize patient care needs. A quick but comprehensive history and physical assessment on each patient is critical to appropriately triage emergency room care. This decision-making process helps to ensure that life-saving services are readily available as needed.

An ER nurse will work in partnership with EMS, physicians, and other multidisciplinary team members to stabilize all emergent needs. 

Routine ER nursing duties will include:

  • Assessment of vital signs
  • Administration of medications as ordered
  • Assisting physicians with necessary procedures
  • Continuous monitoring for any status changes 

An ER nurse must also have continuous communication with the physician, the patient, and appropriate family members regarding the evolving plan of care. 

Emergency Room Nursing Skills

Specialized knowledge and skills. Unlike other departments that typically specialize in a certain service or care for a specific patient population, ER nursing requires the clinician to be well versed in all aspects of care. Emergency room nursing skills must include comprehensive knowledge of the pediatric, adult, and geriatric population including the mental, physical, and psychosocial needs of each unique group.

Make quick decisions. In times when patients in the emergency room are unconscious or unable to communicate appropriately, ER nurses must rely on their medical knowledge and clinical experience to gather and evaluate all relevant pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, an essential skill in ER nursing is the ability to make decisions with very limited information.   

Characteristics of an Emergency Room Nurse

Remain calm under the pressure. Professionals who seek emergency nursing jobs must be able to tolerate an unpredictable and often chaotic work environment. Compassion, empathy, and mental stability are also needed as emergency nursing jobs often expose professionals to the complex circumstances related to trauma, violence, abuse, neglect, and death.

ER nurses tend to be outgoing in nature. This characteristic allows them to quickly build trusting relationships with patients during high-stress situations. In 2014, a study by the University of Sydney found that “emergency department nurses aren't like the rest of us—they are more extroverted, agreeable and open—attributes that make them successful in the demanding, fast-paced, and often stressful environment of an emergency department.”

ER nurses commit to continuous learningThe Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing reported that in 2016 alone, over 4,100 nurses successfully passed the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) examination. ER nurses are highly regarded for their expertise and are often held to a higher standard.

Is an Emergency Nursing Job the Right Fit for You?

Emergency nursing jobs necessitate a clear understanding of critical care standards and the ability to multi-task in high-stress situations. These skills are traditionally built from years of diverse clinical experience. 

While ER nursing is not meant for everyone, it can be an immensely rewarding role for those who are drawn to this unique environment. Lives are impacted and often saved each day because of the knowledge and skills displayed by emergency room clinicians. S

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