Work in the Emergency Room is both difficult and rewarding because the long hours, the pressure, the stress, and the high speed of the work are compensated with a high employment rate, a rather competitive salary, and, of course, the fact that an ER nurse can help save someone’s life every day.
To become an ER nurse you will need a specific set of skills accompanied by certain features that are part of your character. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most important ones.
An ER nurse’s job description
In the Emergency Rooms, nurses help treat patients who need critical care because they have been in different kinds of accidents, had a stroke or heart attack, gone into labor, experienced a drug overdose, etc. They usually deal with people whose life is in danger and who need help quickly.
But experienced ER nurses will tell you that not all cases are so severe in the ER and if you expect a large number of complicated and unusual cases on a daily basis – as seen on TV – you are probably going to be disappointed. These happen approximately once a month and, sometimes, most of an ER nurse’s shift passes in dealing with paperwork and preparing rooms.
Most of the time, the ER nurses are the ones assessing patients before they see a doctor. Because of the nature of the cases they witness every day, they need a very wide set of skills that cover everything from putting ice on a swollen ankle to performing CPR.
ER nurses, of course, work in emergency departments of hospitals, but they are also often hired in search and rescue teams, walk-in clinics, schools, and even as movie medics.
An ER nurse’s education
The first step to becoming an ER nurse is getting an associate (ADN) or bachelor’s (BSN) degree in nursing. After that only one step is left before you become an RN – registered nurse. That step is passing the National Council Licensure Examination and getting the license to work as an RN.
When you become one, you need to get as much experience as possible in emergency medicine. This can be done by joining the Emergency Room staff at the hospital where you already work as a floating nurse, for example.
After gaining two years of experience you are eligible to get certified through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. You can and should also get additional certificates like those for general emergencies, helicopter nursing, or a PALS certificate for pediatric emergencies.
Bear in mind that some hospitals accept only candidates with a BSN while others will hire you with an ADN but will expect you to get a BSN while working there. This is why it is important to give a lot of thought to what it is that you want your career to be when deciding which type of degree to pursue.
An ER nurse’s characteristics
In most cases, you learn to be an ER nurse by working as one. Hospitals are open to hiring nurses that will learn on the spot how to do their job. This means you need to be a quick learner and thinker. And be prepared and open for life-long learning.
While working with critical cases, you will see many difficult situations. You need to be able to stay calm and to do your best despite the pressure and stress. Sometimes you will see tragedies happening right in front of your eyes and you must be able to rise above and protect your own feelings by not letting them get to you.
Shifts in emergency medicine are very long, usually twelve hours, so you need stamina. The adrenaline that comes with working in such a fast-paced environment where you never know what is going to happen, can help you to stay awake and energized.
Great communication skills are also necessary in order to understand what your patient and their family is going through but also finding the right words to provide them with proper information and the best possible care.
In a nutshell
Not many occupations come with satisfying earnings as a reward for difficulties experienced every day in the line of work. If you work well under pressure, enjoy helping fellow humans, and do not mind long hours, you should definitely consider ER as the next step of your nursing career.