As with almost any career in health care, registered nurses can specialize in a particular branch of medicine. Emergency medicine is probably one of the more exciting. You’re responsible for prioritizing medical care for patients with all kinds of problems, and none of them arrive by appointment. Not only are you treating the sick, but also those who’ve sustained injuries or are dealing with a mental health crisis. The job description for an emergency room RN varies by employer, but there are some basic duties, qualifications and demands that you’ll likely see everywhere during your job search.
Job duties are similar to those of almost all other nurses, but you need the experience, confidence and skill to carry them out with greater urgency. In fact, there’s a higher level of autonomy in emergency medicine, as you’ll often need to make initial assessments without outside direction from physicians or surgeons. You’ll also be required to perform therapeutic nursing interventions, such as stabilizing patients, providing basic life support, administering medications and initiating corrective actions. Other duties may include recording medical histories, monitoring patients, performing diagnostic tests and explaining after-care to patients or family members. Expect to help patients and their families deal with pain, fear, anger and grief.
All registered nurses must hold a bachelor’s degree, associate degree or a diploma from an accredited nursing program. They must also be licensed to practice, and the requirements for licensing vary by state. Many employers seek candidates with at least one year of emergency room experience, as well as advanced certifications, such as Certified Emergency Nurse, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Trauma Nursing Core Course and even Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
Due to the nature of the work, employers may require you to meet certain physical requirements. The ability to lift 20 lbs. isn’t uncommon. You may also need to move or transfer patients with an individual effort equal to 50 lbs. ER nurses should have a full range of body motion to successfully perform all essential functions of the job, meaning you’ll have to stand, walk, bend, kneel, crouch and reach. Of course, accommodations are made for nurses with disabilities.
Although salaries vary by employer, emergency room nurses averaged $71,200 a year in 2011, according to a survey by Wolters Kluwer, a global information services company. However, registered nurses as a whole earned an average of just over $69,000 a year, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (reference 2).
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.