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How do I Become an Emergency Room Nurse?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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To become an emergency room nurse takes a nursing degree and usually additional study and examinations. This is a field that requires quick thinkers who are able to handle difficult situations where high stress may exist. Patients arriving in emergency rooms or sometimes in other areas like urgent care clinics, where emergency room nurses may also work, can be extremely ill. ER nurses are expected to provide swift and competent care or to perform even life-saving measures on patients.

The path to become an emergency room nurse begins with getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a registered nursing degree. A licensed vocational or licensed practical nurse (LVN/LPN) can also work in an emergency room, but they do so under the supervision of registered nurses. LVNs and LPNs are usually limited in the amount of care they can provide and they may be less desired in the ER setting because nurses usually need to perform complex care maneuvers.

With a registered nursing degree and proper certification, some people become an emergency room nurse right away by being directly hired by hospitals. This doesn’t occur for everyone because many hospitals prefer not to hire people inexperienced in the ER for ER jobs. Many employers exact higher standards for those who would work in these areas or they hire nurses on a trainee basis only.

One way to get additional training to become an emergency room nurse is to take classes from reputable licensing or certifying agencies. In the US, for instance, people can get training or take tests from the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). Nurses with ER experience may be able to sit and pass tests without taking classes first. A certificate from an organization like the ENA can be a way to obtaining ER nursing work from hospitals that have stronger standards.

Another method for meeting the standards of this profession is to obtain a master’s degree specializing in emergency nursing. It’s not clear that this is always needed. Though figures can change, a breakdown of employees by degree suggests that only about 10% of emergency room nurses possess a master’s degree. Moreover, though a bachelor’s degree in registered nursing tends to be preferred, an RN associates degree is about as common as the bachelor’s degree in emergency nursing. Still, greater education tends to mean more pay and people with master’s level work might become an emergency room nurse manager or supervisor.

The extensive training to become an emergency room nurse needs to be matched by a disposition that can handle the stress and constant alarm of the job. Emergency room nurses tend to have a high rate of caregiver stress and career burnout. Knowing this in advance can help because they can begin to build into their lives healthy support systems and good mental health that will be of use in performing this work.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Aug 06, 2014

@Scrbblchick -- I have a friend who took that route to being an emergency room nurse. He was an EMT for about 10 years and decided he wanted to go to nursing school. He said a lot of the initial classes, especially, were much easier for him because he had covered a lot of the material in EMT training and on the job.

He also said he did well in his practical training because he already knew how to move and transfer patients safely, and could help in crisis situations. He felt it was a real advantage for him because it helped him in nursing school, and also when he was looking for a job.

By Scrbblchick — On Aug 05, 2014

Another route nurses may take to become emergency room nurses is to start out with an EMT program. This helps them learn emergency field medicine, and they gain emergency situation experience by working as an emergency medical technician.

In fact, there are many EMTs who decided on a career in nursing after being on the job for a while. They went to nursing school and became emergency certified. Then, when they applied to the ER department of a hospital, they were desirable hires because of their EMT experience. They had, in essence, already proven their ability to deal with an emergency, take instructions and make good decisions.

Being an EMT first will often help a new nurse find a job a little quicker.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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