What Does an ER Nurse Do?

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For many folks on the outside of the healthcare industry, talk of the emergency room may conjure images of a ’90s George Clooney playing a debonair doc on “ER,” the “Grey’s Anatomy” gang, or the “Chicago Med” crew. But in real life, and for medical professionals working in the ER, the reality is so much more and quite a different experience. So, what does an ER nurse do? Read on to learn more about this fast-paced, highly rewarding specialty.

What Does the ER Team Do?

To understand the role of an ER nurse, it’s important to first understand the context of the ER team nurses work within. Because of the urgency and complexity of healthcare delivery in the ER, there’s typically a diverse, multifaceted staff of healthcare professionals that collaborate to provide the best emergency room patient care. This team can include — but isn’t limited to — trauma surgeons, urgent care physicians/emergency medical physicians, ER RNs, ER techs, EMTs/EMT-Ps, respiratory therapists, radiologists, radiology techs, ambulatory nurses, administrative staff, and social workers/case managers.

A wide range of conditions are treated in the ER. Patients could be suffering from issues ranging from minor cuts to a fractured arm to extreme trauma. Common reasons for visiting the ER include broken bones, severe headaches, chest pains/heart attack symptoms, stroke symptoms, burns, allergic reactions, abdominal pain, back pain, severe cough or fever, breathing difficulties, and major trauma, as in the case of a car accident or shooting.

The ER team’s ultimate objective is to provide care to patients with acute conditions, to assess and treat patients as quickly as possible (which can sometimes mean emergency surgery), and to stabilize them for transfer to another hospital unit or discharge them.

It’s a fast-paced environment that can be challenging but also very rewarding, because you’re making a huge impact in people’s lives every single day you’re on the job. You can be helping people and providing care during literal life and death situations or even smaller, but still scary situations like a kiddo with a broken bone and a worried family.

What Does an ER Nurse Do?

ER nurses are often the first interaction a patient has after checking in, so it’s a really important role that has a huge impact on patient care. Emergency room nurses help perform triage for trauma patients, identify each patient’s needs, monitor vitals, document any changes in condition, chart and document care plans, provide and assist in providing medical treatments, help with pain management, place IVs, set broken bones, intubate patients, give stiches and sutures, communicate with each patient’s family, help transfer patients to other units or discharge them when stable, and so much more.

According to Glassdoor, as of June 2021, the average ER nurse salary in the United States is $71,091.

If you’re a highly adaptable, compassionate, high-energy, quick-thinking, decisive person who can go with the flow like a pro and works well in team environments, working in the emergency room could be a great fit for you.

Travel ER Nursing

If you’re an experienced ER nurse, ER tech, or ER social worker, travel nursing could be a lucrative and exciting option for your career journey. In addition to the incredible adventure of getting paid to travel the country 13 weeks at a time, travel nurses can often make great wages and compensation, in addition to solid medical benefits, retirement benefits, and other benefits. Travel healthcare is also a great way to keep your career fresh and avoid nurse burnout.

Most facilities do require two to three years of recent, in-hospital experience in the ER unit, as they need you to have well-established skills that allow you to jump right in and provide excellent patient care. You’ll also be getting used to new locations and facilities, so most travelers note that it’s best to wait until your experience and skills are firmly established in order to better ensure yourself a happy, successful travel nursing assignment. Each travel nursing job is specific in its requirements, but your travel nurse recruiter can help you with those specifics and logistics when applying for jobs.

Many facilities require ER travel nurses to have certifications including Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) or Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC), and Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC). It’s can also be a bonus to have certifications including Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI), Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Management of Assaultive Behavior (MAB), and National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS).

If you’re an emergency room travel nurse or travel allied health professional looking for your next great career opportunity, click here to search ER travel nurse and ER travel allied health jobs!

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