What is an Emergency Room Nurse?

Emergency room nurses provide urgent care to ill and injured patients admitted to the emergency department.

They also deliver treatments to individuals with different life-threatening conditions.

As a result, these medical professionals specialize in rapidly assessing and treating their patient’s ailments.

Emergency nurses must immediately respond to emergencies to ensure patient safety and health.

Every experience is unique, and every second counts when working in the emergency department.

What Do ER Nurses Do?

Emergency room nurses perform numerous responsibilities to ensure patient safety and well-being.

It includes monitoring vitals, maintaining medical records, administering medication, cleaning lacerations, performing blood work, inserting IVs, and other tasks.

They also provide emotional support to patients and assist physicians and staff with treatments and patient care needs.

ER nurses must always be ready to assess and treat various standard and life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

It comprises everything from minor infections to heart attacks and severe trauma resulting from accidents or violence.

ER Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Triage and stabilize patients
  • Administer medications
  • Clean lacerations
  • Apply sutures
  • Administer intravenous lines
  • Perform blood work
  • Update and manage patient records
  • Assist with physical needs (movement, exercise, feeding, etc.)

Many medical treatments and interventions ER nurses provide center on common medical problems.

For instance, ER nurses frequently treat patients experiencing abdominal, chest, and back pain.

They also assist those with severe headaches, toothaches, respiratory issues, skin infections, contusions, and cuts.

The following list covers some of the most common medical emergencies ER nurses treat.

Common Emergencies ER Nurses Treat:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Broken bones and sprains
  • Chest pain
  • Contusions and cuts
  • Foreign objects in the body
  • Headaches
  • Skin infections
  • Toothaches
  • Upper respiratory issues

Emergency Nurse Specializations

Emergency nurses work in different primary and supporting roles to accommodate patient needs.

It includes operating in trauma, triage, pediatrics, geriatrics, burn centers, charge units, and flight nursing.

Each role is essential to provide adequate support to patients, emergency departments, and medical staff.

Some specialists, like triage and trauma nurses, coordinate jointly to manage different patient care areas.

Other professionals, like flight nurses, provide pre-hospital emergency care via helicopters with aeromedical teams.

These professionals ensure patient safety and well-being while transportation to a nearby emergency department.

Subsequently, the triage and trauma nurses provide state-of-the-art care with more advanced equipment and procedures.

Emergency Room Nurse Departments:

  • Trauma Nurse
  • Triage Nurse
  • Charge Nurse
  • Geriatric ED Nurse
  • Burn Center Nurse
  • Pediatric ED Nurse
  • Flight Nurse

Job Environment

Emergency room nurses typically work in an emergency department, critical care unit, or operating room.

Nevertheless, an ER nurse’s area of employment influences the type of patients they regularly treat. 

Nurses in large cities may encounter patients with alcohol poisoning, drug abuse, physical trauma, and other typical cases.

Alternatively, nurses in rural areas experience emergencies associated with bad weather, accidents, and age-related issues. 

Nurses in rural areas may also rely more on aeromedical teams due to the time and distance required to help patients.

Occupational Settings:

  • Emergency departments
  • Adult care
  • Trauma units
  • Burn units
  • Disaster response units
  • Geriatric intensive care units
  • Pediatric intensive care units
  • Urgent care settings
  • Urban and rural settings

How ER Nurses Affect Their Communities

The communities emergency room nurses’ support affects their connections with their patients.

For instance, it’s not uncommon for ER nurses in rural areas to know patients personally due to the small community.

These nurses often see the same people and are familiar with their medical histories, families, and lifestyle.

Nurses in large metropolitan areas or cities may also develop connections with the patients they serve.

However, the larger neighborhood means they’ll receive lots of new and unfamiliar patients regularly.

It’s also not common to treat out-of-state patients visiting due to business, vacation, or family.

As a result, they require alternative practices and systems to accommodate countless patients with unfamiliar histories.

These differences in communities lead to distinct medical procedures to ensure patients receive adequate, timely care.

Besides understanding patients’ needs, there are other challenges for nurses in rural vs. urban settings.

For instance, nurses in rural areas face challenges with commuting to work, especially during bad weather.

Some nurses may also live in rural areas but commute to city jobs to obtain more affordable housing.

Nurses who work and live in cities face different issues due to traffic, toll costs, and a higher cost of living.

Necessary Skills | Professional Qualities

Emergency nurses assist a large diversity of patients of different ages, health statuses, and medical conditions.

As a result, they must be familiar with hospital policies and understand medical procedures and protocols.

A good understanding of these systems enables them to operate ethically, effectively, and efficiently in healthcare settings.

To ensure adequate care, ER nurses must utilize leadership, communication, time management, and critical thinking.

The following sections explore emergency room nurses’ necessary skills to accommodate patients and medical teams. 


In emergency care settings, medical professionals must take leadership in their expertise.

Accordingly, emergency room nurses must coordinate and lead their teams to ensure patients receive timely care.

If a nurse cannot lead properly and delegate responsibilities effectively, it can significantly impact the patient’s well-being.

It’s also essential for nurses to understand their specific roles to ensure each member is performing their duties efficiently.

As a result, nurses will better comprehend when to lead and follow their team at critical moments.


Excellent communication skills are essential in patient care, especially in emergency settings.

As a result, nurses must develop communication skills to ensure everyone quickly understands their roles and duties.

One critical error in communication can have dire consequences.

Good communication skills require an understanding of hospital policies, medical terminology, patient care roles, and leadership expectations.

It also requires training and experience to confidently and effectively execute different responsibilities and care plans. 

Time Management

Time management and organization are vital pillars of good patient care.

Therefore, ER nurses must have exceptional time management skills to treat patients promptly.

Effectively administering IVs, medications, and treatments is required to maintain specific procedures and schedules.

For instance, patients may require regular doses of a particular medication to maintain their health, safety, and comfort.

In this example, the ER nurse must ensure patients receive medication on time to avoid medical issues or complications.

ER nurses also manage numerous patients at a given time, so it’s essential their well organized and timely.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking enables nurses to assess and treat patients’ conditions based on emergency level and priority.

Accordingly, ER nurses utilize various approaches and procedures to analyze and organize patients’ medical needs.

For instance, ADPIE focuses on five stages: assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation.

These stages ensure nurses evaluate, plan, execute and reassess their treatments to provide the most effective care.

ER nurses also utilize other assessment strategies like activity intolerance to treat different conditions and situations.

How To Become An Emergency Room Nurse

Aspiring emergency room nurses must obtain a license through an accredited nursing program to work in this profession.

Firstly, students must take approximately two semesters of nursing school prerequisite courses.

It enables them to build the educational foundation necessary to gain entry into nursing students.

Next, students must decide whether to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

The ADN degree requires two years of education and training.

It allows nursing students to gain quick entrance into entry-level registered nursing positions.

Comparatively, the BSN degree requires four years to complete and is essential for obtaining more advanced nursing roles.

It also provides registered nurses with better career opportunities and salaries resulting from higher education. 

At the end of the nursing program, students must pass the state-approved NCLEX-RN exam to earn their license.

Some students become ER nurses directly from nursing school, especially with a BSN and prior clinical experience.

However, some emergency departments require nurses to obtain two to three years of bedside care experience beforehand.

Whether it’s possible to become an ER nurse directly or after acquiring work experience depends on the healthcare facility.

Relevant Certifications

There are numerous certifications nurses can pursue to improve their odds of obtaining ER nursing positions.

These certifications also enable nurses to expand their roles, take on additional responsibilities and earn more money.

ER nurse certification requirements will vary depending on their position and the healthcare facility.

However, the following certifications are reasonably common in critical care settings.

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
    Trauma Nursing Core Course
  • CCRN certification

Certified Emergency Nurse Certification

Acquiring a certified emergency nurse (CEN) certification benefits registered nurses and their employers.

It ensures ER nurses understand technical performance, accuracy, patient care procedures, and ethical behavior.

As a result, ER nurses are more likely to obtain emergency department roles and earn higher salaries.

Receiving a CEN isn’t necessary to become an emergency room nurse.

However, it’s beneficial for negotiating a more significant salary, applying to challenging jobs, and career advancement.