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How to Become an ER Nurse

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As registered nurses who specialize in the rapid assessment and care of patients in life-threatening situations, emergency room nurses are quick-thinkers with exceptional decision-making abilities. They must have a firm grasp of emergency nursing principles and practices, as well as an in-depth knowledge of a wide variety of health emergencies. If you love helping people in difficult situations, this is a career that could suit you.

Become a Registered, Licensed Nurse

The road to becoming an ER nurse begins in nursing school, where you should earn a diploma or associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you choose to pursue a baccalaureate program, be sure to take elective courses in ER-relevant areas such as pain management. Next, pass the National Council Licensing Examination for registered nurses, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Finally, obtain a nursing license from your state’s board of nursing.

Get Certified

Although you can get ER nursing jobs as a new graduate with an RN license, obtaining the Certified Emergency Nurse certification from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, or BCEN, improves your prospects. Although the board recommends that applicants possess at least two years of emergency nursing experience, it is not a mandatory requirement. To become certified, you must pass an examination that covers various types of emergencies, including cardiovascular, neurological, orthopedic, respiratory and toxicological emergencies. The BCEN also offers certifications in pediatric, travel and trauma emergency nursing.

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Master the Skills

To be an accomplished ER nurse, you must be a fast thinker with strong analytical and decision-making skills. When a patient is brought into the ER, for example, you should be able to rapidly assess his condition, recognize the type of emergency and determine the kind of emergency care to provide. You need teamwork skills to be effective in collaborating with physicians, ER technicians and other emergency practitioners, and multitasking skills to perform a variety of tasks at once, depending on patient needs. The job involves attending to patients who are physically traumatized or in severe pain, so you need the emotional stamina to cope with human suffering and focus on providing quality care.

Find Employment

As a qualified ER nurse, you can find work in the emergency and intensive care units of general and specialty hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Employment opportunities are also available in medical units of professional sports teams and correctional facilities.

With several years of ER nursing experience and an advanced credential such as master’s degree in nursing, you can be promoted to the position of ER nurse manager.

As of April 2015, the average annual salary for ER nurses was $65,000, according to the job site Indeed.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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