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What Are the Duties of Emergency Room Registered Nurses?

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While all nurses receive some training in emergency care for their patients, emergency room nurses must recognize sudden, life-threatening conditions in people of all ages and in all conditions, and rapidly arrange care. By 2020, the United States will have a shortage of more than 800,000 nurses, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Hospital emergency rooms, which place life and death responsibility in staffers' hands, require registered nurses to handle many important duties.

Basic Duties

RNs fill an integral role in assessing and treating emergency room patients and being part of the emergency-room team. In one moment they can be resuscitating a heart attack victim and, the next, be teaching a child how to avoid poison ivy. Their job pace can very quickly dial up from slow to high speed. An emergency room nurse's overall duties are to stabilize patients in trauma, discover medical conditions rapidly, control pain, and teach patients injury prevention, as necessary, notes One of the most important emergency-room duties is triage, a process that prioritizes medical conditions based on how critical they are. The emergency room nurse responsible for this, also known as the triage nurse, decides, based on patients' complaints and vital signs, if they need to be assessed and treated quickly or provided with a slower-paced assessment with procedures such as lab tests and X-rays.

Basic Skills

The Emergency Nurses Association notes that the main skills for emergency room nurses include knowledge of advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support assessment, respiratory assessment, including how to assess arterial blood gases and cardiac enzymes; ECG and EKG interpretation, and IV skills.

Personal Qualities

Emergency-room nursing calls for some specific personal characteristics that others in the emergency room will rely upon. The ENA points outs that these include an ability to shift gears quickly; to multitask; to have sharp observation, assessment and prioritization skills; and to have lots of stamina. Emergency room nurses must have good communication and customer service skills, as well as thorough knowledge of themselves and how to cope in highly stressful situations and remain calm, no matter what.

Workplaces and Salary

Besides hospitals, RNs with emergency-room experience can work in related areas, such as for EMS transport and as flight nurses in helicopters and airlines, and in medical facilities in prisons, sports arenas and the military. They can work as administrators and researchers for corporations, businesses and government agencies. They can also teach in schools of nursing and universities. reports that emergency room nurses make an average salary of $44,000 to $57,000 per year.

Career Preparation

Becoming an emergency room nurse requires earning an associate of science degree or a bachelor of science degree in nursing. A bachelor's degree allows for more employment opportunities in the future than does an associate degree. Next, aspiring emergency room RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, commonly known as the NCLEX-RN. Specialized training for emergency rooms typically happens on the job. The ENA reports that because many hospitals are in need of specialized RNs, they are hiring recent nursing graduates and teaching them required emergency-room skills. The ANE recommends that potential emergency room nurses look for a hospital or medical facility with a formal program in emergency room nursing. If on-the-job training is not a possibility, the ENA recommends that nurses gain experience by working in areas such as critical care or medical-surgical wards, where they can learn resuscitation, prioritizing and multitasking skills. They might also acquire necessary skills in continuing-education courses. After two years in the emergency room, nurses can receive Board Certification for Emergency Nursing or a BCEN, after passing an exam. They can also become certified in flight, pediatric emergency, and critical-care ground-transport nursing.


Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.

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