What Do ER Nurses Do? A Look at a Typical Shift 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

ER nurses are known for their ability to thrive in high-pressure situations and provide critical care to patients in medical emergencies. But you may be wondering, “What does an ER nurse do?”

A career as an emergency room nurse can be rewarding and dynamic, filled with daily opportunities to make an impact on the lives of patients and their families.

We dive into the responsibilities of ER nurses, the qualities they possess, and the path to becoming an ER nurse. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know what an ER nurse does daily and have the information you need to determine if becoming an ER nurse is the right step for your career! 


what do er nurses do


Table of Contents



What Do ER Nurses Do?

ER nurses have been called the adrenaline junkies of the hospital. They are passionate about their work and excel in dynamic and ever-changing circumstances.

ER nurses are at the frontline handling the unpredictable emergency room triage and treating patients suffering from a wide range of medical emergencies, both big and small. 

Some examples of the cases they handle are:

  • Wounds, burns, infections, and sprains
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Superficial injuries
  • Overdoses and poisoning cases
  • Accident or violence-related injuries

ER nurses can be found in various healthcare settings — but most often in hospital emergency rooms. 

Within the ER nursing field, there are specialized roles such as: 

  • Triage nurses
  • Trauma response nurses
  • Disaster response nurses
  • Pediatric nurses
  • Adult nurses
  • Charge nurses
  • Geriatric nurses

Since ER nurses are in demand around the nation, travel nursing is a popular career option for certified ER nurses. 


what do er nurses do


History of Emergency Room Nurses

The role of emergency room nurses has evolved significantly over time, with their contributions shaping the landscape of modern healthcare. In the 1970s, a revolutionary concept known as the “systems approach to trauma and emergency medical services” emerged in the United States. This concept led to the recognition of trauma nursing as an essential component of comprehensive care.

During this period, trauma nurse coordinators played a pivotal role in the development of regional trauma and emergency medical services systems. Their leadership and contributions were instrumental in establishing effective protocols and enhancing patient outcomes. These pioneer nurses paved the way for the growth and specialization of emergency room nursing.

Over the years, emergency room nurses have become highly skilled in providing immediate care to patients experiencing medical emergencies. 

The role of emergency room nurses continues to evolve, adapting to the ever-changing landscape of healthcare, and ensuring that individuals in critical condition receive timely and effective treatment.


what do er nurses do on a daily basis


What Do ER Nurses Do on a Daily Basis? 10 Responsibilities

As ER nurses navigate the high-pressure environment of the emergency room, their daily responsibilities cover a wide range of critical tasks. 


#1: Triage and Stabilize Incoming Patients

When a patient arrives at the emergency room, ER nurses swiftly assess their condition, prioritizing care based on the severity of their injuries or illnesses. 

Whether it’s a car accident victim requiring immediate intervention or a child with a high fever in need of prompt medical attention, as an ER nurse, you will utilize your expertise to stabilize patients quickly, take in important information, and alleviate their discomfort.


#2: Perform Minor Medical Procedures

ER nurses are skilled in performing various minor medical procedures that aid in patient recovery. 

Picture a scenario where an elderly individual slips and fractures their wrist. In this situation, if you’re proficient in setting broken bones, you would gently manipulate the fracture back into alignment, providing relief to the patient and initiating the healing process.


#3: Clean Wounds and Apply Sutures

In the emergency room, ER nurses must excel at wound care. 

Consider a hypothetical case where a hiker sustains a deep laceration while exploring the wilderness. If you’re adept in wound management, you would carefully cleanse the wound to prevent infection and skillfully close it with sutures, facilitating optimal healing and reducing the risk of complications.


#4: Draw Blood, Start IV Lines, and Administer Medication 

Drawing blood, initiating intravenous lines, and administering medications are integral aspects of an ER nurse’s daily routine. Sometimes, these all need to be done in high-stress, life-or-death situations.

As an ER nurse, you will need to be able to expertly draw blood for diagnostic testing, establish an IV line to deliver essential medications, and closely monitor the patient’s response, ensuring their well-being.


#5: Clean and Dress Wounds

From minor abrasions to severe burns, ER nurses possess the expertise to clean and dress wounds effectively. 

If a patient comes in with fresh cuts and lacerations, you’d gently cleanse wounds, apply appropriate dressings, and provide the patient with reassurance and comfort, allowing them to heal with minimal scarring.


#6: Maintain Patient Records 

Ensuring accurate and comprehensive patient records is an essential responsibility for ER nurses. 

When a patient arrives at the ER with a pre-existing medical condition, you would diligently update the patient’s records — documenting vital information, current symptoms, and administered treatments. This meticulous record-keeping contributes to seamless communication among healthcare providers and facilitates continuity of care.


#7: Communicate With a Patient’s Family

ER nurses not only provide medical care but also act as a source of support and guidance for patients’ families. 

In a situation where a patient experiences a sudden cardiac event, causing distress among their loved ones, as an empathetic ER nurse, you would compassionately communicate with the family. You would explain the situation, address their concerns, and provide updates on the patient’s condition, fostering a sense of trust and reassurance.


#8: Assist With Diagnostic Procedures and Tests

Collaborating with other healthcare professionals, ER nurses assist in various diagnostic procedures and tests. 

In the ER, you would assist in arranging and performing imaging studies such as X-rays or ultrasounds, ensuring the necessary diagnostic information is obtained to guide effective treatment decisions.


#9: Transfer Patients

After stabilizing patients, ER nurses coordinate the transfer of individuals requiring specialized care. 

If a patient with a complex surgical condition is admitted to the ER, you would collaborate with the appropriate healthcare team — ensuring a smooth transition of the patient to a specialized unit or another medical facility where they can receive the necessary treatment and support.


#10: Discharge Patients

When patients no longer require hospitalization, ER nurses facilitate their safe discharge. 

Once patients undergo a thorough evaluation in the ER, they are usually either transferred to another unit or deemed stable and fit for home care. As an ER nurse, would provide comprehensive discharge instructions, including medication schedules, follow-up appointments, and self-care guidelines, empowering the patient to continue their recovery outside the hospital setting.


Important Qualities of an ER Nurse

Being an ER nurse requires a unique set of qualities to handle unpredictable and traumatic events effectively. 

Some essential qualities include:

  • Cool under pressure: An ER nurse needs to have a certain level of comfort in dealing with unpredictable and traumatic events. It’s essential that ER nurses remain calm and composed in high-pressure situations that inevitably arise in the emergency room.
  • Emotional resilience: ER nurses need the ability to remove themselves from emotional situations to focus on providing critical care.
  • Quick thinking & decision making: ER nurses must work swiftly with a clear mind, making critical decisions under pressure.
  • Adaptability: The emergency room environment is dynamic, and nurses must adapt to changing circumstances and patient needs.
  • Medical competency: A strong foundation in medical knowledge and skills is crucial for delivering effective care.
  • Effective communication: ER nurses must be skilled communicators, able to convey information clearly to patients, families, and other healthcare professionals.
  • Collaborative spirit: The ER is a collaborative environment, and nurses must work well with colleagues from various backgrounds.
  • Leadership skills: ER nurses often take charge in emergency situations, leading the healthcare team and coordinating patient care.
  • Compassion & empathy: ER nurses must show compassion and empathy towards patients and their families during times of crisis.


what do er nurses do


How To Become an ER Nurse

Becoming an ER nurse requires dedication and the completion of several steps:

  1. Obtain the necessary education. Earn a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. This can be an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
  2. Obtain licensure. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse. Depending on your state of residence, you can also apply for an enhanced nurse licensure compact (eNLC), which is a multi-state license that grants the licensee the privilege to practice nursing in all participating compact states as long as they remain a resident of the issuing state.
  3. Gain experience. Start working as a registered nurse, preferably in a healthcare setting that provides exposure to emergency medicine.
  4. Pursue certifications. Consider obtaining certifications such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) to enhance your skills and marketability as an ER nurse.
  5. Apply for specialized training. If you wish to further specialize in emergency nursing, you can apply for training programs offered by organizations such as the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN).


what does an er nurse do


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping Travel Nurses Find Emergency Room Nurse Contracts in Dream Locations

Becoming an ER nurse opens the door to a dynamic and rewarding career in healthcare. From triaging patients to performing life-saving interventions, as an ER nurse, you will play a crucial role in emergency medicine. 

If you’re ready for a fast-paced environment where every shift brings new challenges, follow the outlined steps to join the ranks of these dedicated professionals. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to help you find your dream emergency room nurse contract. Embrace the excitement, make a difference, and embark on a fulfilling journey as an ER nurse.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is dedicated to helping travel nurses find opportunities in emergency room nursing, whether you’re a seasoned ER nurse looking for new adventures or a newly graduated nurse eager to jump into the action. Our expert team understands the unique demands of ER nursing and strives to match you with an assignment that suits your skills, preferences, and career goals. 

Trust us to be your partner in navigating the world of travel nursing and embarking on a fulfilling ER nursing career.