Emergency nurses care for patients in the critical or emergency phase of an illness or trauma, but they are not limited to working in a hospital’s emergency room. They must be able to recognize life-threatening problems and rapidly arrange necessary care. They are expected to respond quickly to a wide variety of single- and multi-system trauma involving different patient needs, ages, cultures, and severity of presenting symptoms. Also known as trauma nursing, the individuals who choose this specialty must respond with decisiveness and clarity to unexpected events by assessing, intervening, and stabilizing patients about whom there is minimal information.

Duties of an Emergency Nurse

There are approximately 90,000 emergency nurses working in the United States. These nurses specialize in rapid assessment and treatment when every second counts, particularly during the initial phase of acute illness and trauma. Emergency nurses must tackle diverse tasks with professionalism, efficiency and with a caring attitude. To provide quality patient care for people of all ages, emergency nurses must possess both general and specific knowledge about health care to provide quality care for patients of all ages. Emergency nurses must be ready to treat a wide variety of illnesses or injury situations or any emergent condition including major multi-system trauma and shock from drowning, diving accidents, poisoning and other medical emergencies.

Emergency nurses must possess medical/surgical, emergency, trauma and/or critical care experience, which includes hands-on skills with IV therapy, ventilators, cardiac monitoring, pain management and pre- and post-operative care. Nurses who seek this profession might consider the personality traits that would help the nurse cope with emergency situations. These attributes include the ability to manage stress, assertive and positive decision-making skills, the ability to communicate clearly, role autonomy and independence, innovative thinking and the ability to work with a team of other professionals.

On the less stressful side of this nursing specialty, emergency nurses also can provide education to the public through programs to promote wellness and prevent injuries, such as alcohol awareness, child passenger safety, gun safety, bicycle and helmet safety, and domestic violence prevention. Emergency nurses also may work as administrators, managers, and researchers who work to improve emergency health care.

Related Types of Nurses

Emergency nursing, because of the inherent stress, conflicts, high pressure, patient/family grief and difficult contacts, short-term patient relationships, language and cultural barriers, is similar to trauma nursing, flight/transport nursing, cruise ship nursing, telephone or triage nursing, domestic violence nursing and forensic nursing. Because emergency nurses must be prepared to provide patient care for almost any situation they may encounter, specialization is rare. However, common areas of specialization include trauma, pediatrics, geriatrics, and injury prevention.

Emergency Nursing Degrees

Emergency nurses are registered nurses. Many emergency nurses acquire additional certifications in the areas of trauma nursing, pediatric nursing, nurse practitioner, and various areas of injury prevention. Emergency nurses continually update their education to stay informed of the latest trends, issues, and procedures in medicine today. The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is the specialty nursing association serving the emergency nursing profession, and they often update emergency nurses in new trends within this specialty profession.