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Emergency and Trauma Nurse – Education and Job Overview

Higher Education Articles October 17, 2013

Emergency and Trauma Nursing: Overview

An emergency nurse is responsible for providing care to patients in critical condition. This may involve assessing the patients’ current health status, administering medication or assisting other medical professionals in emergency health procedures. Emergency and trauma nursing is largely distinguished from other forms of nursing in that the traditional nurse typically deals with already diagnosed patients. Emergency nurses are required to provide care despite the fact that a diagnosis has likely not yet been reached.

Work Environment and Job Duties

Emergency and trauma nurses generally work in hospital emergency rooms, although some may also be placed at smaller clinics. Because emergency patients can and do arrive in the ER at all hours of the day, trauma nurses are expected to work in rotating 12-hour shifts. These shifts may take place on the weekends, during holidays or late at night. Because of the rigorous nature of 12-hour emergency and trauma nursing shifts, ER nurses are usually given sufficient time off for recovery. After all, it is absolutely essential that emergency nurses be alert whenever they are on the job.

The emergency nurse is just one piece in a specially-designed team of medical professionals. ER nurses may be accompanied by emergency physicians, emergency nurse practitioners, paramedics, and, if needed, nursing assistants. The emergency nurse is charged with providing immediate care to patients in critical condition, whether or not these patients have already been diagnosed.

Requirements and Education

Before ever coming on board as an emergency nurse, the aspiring professional must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year nursing program. From there, a special certified emergency nurse (CEN) designation is given to nurses with expertise in emergency care. To obtain certification as CEN, nurses must take and pass exams administered by the Board of Certified Emergency Nursing (BCEN). The BCEN exam consists of 175 questions, 25 of which are considered sample questions. The emergency nursing candidate is given a total of 3 hours to complete the test and must earn at a minimum score of 70 percent in order to receive CEN certification.

Salary and Career Outlook

The outlook for nursing as a whole is very good, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating a job growth rate of 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is far faster than the average outlook for jobs in the United States. The salary for a nursing professional is also considered quite reasonable, with the average registered nurse having earned an annual salary of over $64,000 in 2010. Because they are required to pursue extra education and certifications above and beyond that required for other registered nurses, emergency nurses are often offered higher salaries than their traditional nursing counterparts. These high salaries may also stem from the increased stress load brought on by the emergency and trauma nursing environment.

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In 2017, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
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