The Résumé Rx

ER Nurse: Ultimate Guide To A Rewarding Career

Amanda Guarniere

Doctors and Nurses in a Hospital

Are you looking for a challenging and fulfilling nursing career? Consider becoming an ER nurse! As an ER nurse, you will be responsible for providing critical care to patients in need. From assessing their condition to administering treatments, you’ll play a crucial role in stabilizing patients and relieving their pain and discomfort.

This article will provide a detailed ER nurse job description, including duties, qualifications, and skill requirements. In addition, we’ll give you a sneak peek at the salary you can expect as an ER nurse.

Key Takeaways

  • Emergency Room (ER) nurses are in charge of providing healthcare services in emergency rooms across various healthcare settings. 
  • Being an ER nurse necessitates strong communication, teamwork, and time management abilities. 
  • While certification is not required to practice ER nursing, it may be required for specific job roles or career advancement.

Table of Contents

What is an ER Nurse

Emergency Room (ER) nurses are in charge of providing healthcare services in emergency departments in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, health systems, and standalone emergency rooms. ER nurses are skilled and compassionate healthcare providers who work tirelessly to provide immediate medical attention to patients in need. They perform critical tasks such as triaging patients to determine urgency, taking vital signs, assisting physicians and surgeons, and administering treatment and medication. 

What Does an ER Nurse Do?

As a healthcare professional in a hospital, you will play an essential role in providing exceptional care to patients. Some of your key responsibilities and skills include:

Duties and Responsibilities

You will play an essential role in providing outstanding care to patients as a healthcare professional in a hospital. Among your primary responsibilities are the following:

  • Giving medications to patients, such as pain relievers, sedatives, and general care medications, both orally and via IV. This will assist them in managing their symptoms and feeling more at ease during their hospital stay.
  • Monitoring the patient’s condition by taking vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen levels. This will assist you and the rest of the medical team ensure that the patient is stable and receiving the appropriate care.
  • Performing EKG readings to monitor the patient’s heart activity. This will allow you to detect any potential problems early on and ensure that the patient receives prompt treatment if necessary.
  • As needed during treatment, collecting blood, urine, or stool samples from patients. This will assist you and the rest of the medical team in monitoring the patient’s progress and making any necessary changes to their treatment plan.
  • Assisting with surgeries such as needle biopsies, lumbar punctures, and minor surgeries such as wound closure, abscess drainage, and tissue removal. This will enable you to collaborate closely with the surgical team and help ensure the patient’s procedure goes as smoothly as possible.
  • Evaluating the patient’s mental state, including emotional state and level of consciousness. This will allow you to provide emotional support to the patient and their loved ones while ensuring their mental health needs are met.

Overall, your work as a healthcare professional will make a significant difference in the lives of your patients, and you will be able to help them feel better and heal faster.


As an ER nurse, it’s crucial to have good communication, teamwork, and time management skills.

  • Communication Skills: A good communicator is essential for any medical professional, particularly an ER nurse. Maintain clear and confident communication with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals. Good communication can increase patient satisfaction while decreasing complaints. 
  • Teamwork Skills: You’ll work with various people as an ER nurse, so good teamwork skills are essential. If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask for it, and rely on your colleagues with more experience. 
  • Time Management Abilities: An ER nurse must be able to manage her time effectively. Many tasks in a hospital are time-sensitive, and knowing how to prioritize patient requests is critical. Identifying critical issues and managing your time effectively can help avoid serious consequences. 

Where Do ER Nurses Work?

ER nurses are vital members of the healthcare team who work in various settings. Emergency rooms can look very different depending on where and how big they are. Some hospitals have centralized emergency departments that treat both inpatients and outpatients.

Here are some examples of emergency department settings:

  • Critical Access
  • Rural Regions
  • Local Environments
  • Cities and Towns
  • Teaching Facilities
  • Independent Emergency Department

Types of ER Nurses

Trauma Nurse

Trauma Nurses are superheroes who typically work in specialized Trauma Centers, but they may also work in designated Emergency Departments. They are the first to attend to patients who have suffered traumatic injuries, providing critical initial care until they can be transferred to a Trauma Surgeon’s care. While other medical personnel may also assist in stabilizing trauma patients, the Trauma Nurse has been specially trained to handle these situations with precision and expertise.

Triage Nurse

A triage nurse is an essential member of an emergency or urgent care team. Patients’ medical conditions are evaluated, and their care is prioritized based on their illness or injury severity. This contributes to shorter wait times, better patient flow, and overall hospital performance. The triage nurse assesses patients’ needs and ensures that those with more severe conditions receive prompt medical attention. All patients receive the treatment they need promptly and effectively by addressing the most critical medical issues.

ED Float Nurse

ED Float Nurses are flexible Emergency Nurses who can work in various departments or shifts within the Emergency Department. They are known for their adaptability and diverse skill set, making them the “go-to” nurses when coverage is required. Their responsibilities vary significantly from shift to shift because they depend on the needs of the department they cover. Overall, ED Floaters are essential in ensuring the Emergency Department runs smoothly and efficiently.

How Much Do ER Nurses Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses (RNs) will grow at a 7% rate between 2019 and 2029, making ER nursing a desirable career path. ER nurses also earn significantly more than the national median salary of $51,920 and the national average salary of $34,250.

Nurse practitioners with ER experience earn an average annual salary of $100,721. Additional education and certification in this field can benefit ER nurses seeking higher pay, autonomy, and responsibility, and it is a wise investment.

Salary for the Entry Level

Newly graduated nurses typically earn around $26.89 per hour, though starting salaries can vary greatly depending on the state of employment. The primary factors influencing salary are the nurse’s location of employment and the company for which she works, with the latter having a more significant influence on overall earnings. Some emergency nurses with lower salaries may be eligible for additional hidden benefits such as dental, vision, and health insurance. 

ER Nurse Salary by State

ER nurse salaries vary depending on various factors, including location and the type of emergency department in which they work. The table below shows the top five states with the highest average annual salary for emergency room nurses. For reference, hourly, monthly, weekly and annual salaries are also provided.

RRx ER Salary Table

It’s important to note that these figures are based on averages and may vary based on experience, education, and other factors. The cost of living in each state should also be considered when considering salaries.

ER Nurse Education

How long does it take to become an ER nurse? You can become an ER nurse in two years by earning an ADN degree or in four years with a BSN. Which one is right for you depends on your short-term and long-term goals.

ADN Degree

  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate with science and math courses
  • Program Curriculum: Practical nursing skills, such as using medical equipment and monitoring patients; how to maintain a hygienic healthcare environment; how healthcare organizations work; communications; legal and ethical concerns
  • Time to Complete: two years
  • Skills Learned: Administering medication and other prescribed treatments; wound care; performing medical testing; safely using medical equipment; understanding and updating medical records

BSN Degree

  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate with math and science classes; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Program Curriculum: Nursing skills; public health and population health; nurse leadership; research and statistics; understanding and applying evidence-based nursing practices
  • Time to Complete: four years
  • Skills Learned: Performing nursing tasks; patient communications; leadership; strategies for improving patient care.

ER Nurse Licensure and Certification

To work as an ER nurse, you must first obtain an RN license, which is renewed regularly. Each state has its continuing education or licensing requirements, so check with your state’s nursing board for approved in-person or online education providers. Although certification is not legally required to practice ER nursing, it may be necessary for certain positions or to advance your career. 

Even if it is not needed for you to land your dream job, obtaining certification can be beneficial. Various ER nursing certifications are available, each focusing on a different workplace setting and patient population. For example, flight and transportation ER nursing certification emphasizes patient stabilization during emergency transport with limited equipment.

FAQs About ER Nurses

What is the advantage of ER nurses?

The valuable experience gained from being exposed to various types of injuries and illnesses is one advantage of working as an ER nurse. Furthermore, the job’s ever-changing nature prevents monotony and keeps the work interesting. Even if one moves on to another area of nursing, this experience can still be beneficial.

Which skill or trait makes the ER nurse unique?

The ER nurse possesses several distinct skills and characteristics that distinguish them from other nursing specializations. On the other hand, their ability to work well under extreme pressure and handle unexpected situations is perhaps their most distinguishing feature. In high-stress situations, ER nurses must think on their feet, make quick decisions, and remain calm. 

What opportunities for advancement do ER nurses have?

ER nurses can advance their careers in a variety of ways. They can become team leaders or nurse administrators by obtaining additional certifications or completing an MSN. Earning an MSN is another option for becoming a certified emergency nurse practitioner.

What is the difference between an ER Nurse and ICU Nurse?

When patients arrive at the hospital, ER nurses provide immediate treatment and stabilise them. ICU nurses, on the other hand, care for patients in critical condition who require continuous medical attention, typically in special ICUs following initial emergency treatment.


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