Experts Weigh In On What It Is Like To Be an ER Nurse — Is It Right For You? 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Are you gearing up for your first day of nursing school? 

You might have everything you’ll need like school supplies, a stethoscope, and loads of books. But one thing you don’t have is any idea of what speciality you might want to pursue. 

Or maybe you’ve been a nurse for 15 years but need a change of pace. You’ve considered many different nursing departments, but none feel exciting enough.

Have you considered pursuing the field of emergency room nursing?

If you’re interested in ER nursing, this article may help you find out if this fast-paced ward is right for you.

Keep reading to find out:

  • What it takes to become an ER nurse
  • What to expect as an ER nurse; and
  • Why you should consider ER nursing


Table of Contents



Working in the ER as a Nurse: What Does It Take?

To become an emergency room (ER) nurse, you must: 

  • Obtain your BSN
  • Pass the NCLEX
  • Receive your RN licensure for your state
  • Consider obtaining a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) certification

Due to the current nursing shortages, some ERs may hire recently graduated nurses. But typically, hospitals prefer to staff their emergency rooms with nurses that have a history of practical experience.

Spending time gaining experience in another area of care before moving to the ER might be a great path for many fledgling nurses. But not all nurses may be excited about beginning their career in a low-impact environment and then ultimately switching specialties

If you don’t like the idea of having to work in another ward for a couple of years before transitioning to the ER, you might want to consider doing your senior practicum in the ER. Although this route is not a guarantee, it might make you a more appealing candidate for a job in the ER once you graduate. 

Another way you might get your foot in the door is by working as an ER tech while earning your degree. This will give you experience and help you build rapport with your future peers in the ER. You might find that this opens a door for you upon graduation. 


is being an er nurse stressful


3 Important Qualities ER Nurses Might Need to Have

One thing is for sure: as an ER nurse, you will never have a boring day. ER nurses cover a lot of ground garnering both new experiences and training, and no two shifts are ever the same.

To thrive as an ER nurse, you need a unique skill set, including:

  • Flexibility
  • Quick reflexes
  • The ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment; and
  • Attention to detail


#1: ER Nurses Are Flexible 

There’s an old quip that claims: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” 

When it comes to ER nursing, there may be no truer motto.

From hectic schedules to on-call shifts to crazy workdays, ER nursing is a constantly shifting field with little stability. 

The ER is open 24 hour hours a day, 365 days a year. It doesn’t close for the weekend and the bank holidays don’t apply. 

Ironically, in the ER, the only constants are emergencies and immediate patient needs.

ER  nursing may be right for you, if you are prepared to: 

  • Drop what you are doing and head to work at a moment’s notice while on-call
  • Work long days — or nights — back-to-back
  • Transition to and from a plethora of different patients and needs all day long; and
  • Handle situations that keep “going wrong”


#2: ER Nurses Thrive in Fast-Paced Environments

Bright, fluorescent lights beaming down from above. 

Squeaking shoes bustling around on the floor.

The smell of disinfectant.

Children crying, patients yelling, machines beeping, and colleagues talking a mile-a-minute the ER is full of action every single second of every single day. 

Is ER nursing stressful? Without a doubt. The ER is in constant motion and things move quickly. 

As an ER nurse, you need the ability to handle a high-stress, fast-paced environment with dignity and grace. You can never allow yourself to become too frazzled. 

For those who want even more adventure, ER travel nursing can be an exciting way to experience ER nursing while enjoying all that travel nursing has to offer. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing works with all types of travel nurses, including ER nurses. We offer great pay and benefits and we are available 24/7 to support our nurses. Pronto can help you find your dream ER travel nurse job today!


what is it like to be an ER nurse


#3: ER Nurses Are Detail-Oriented

The patient in room one needs Narcan and the patient in room 11 needs Lorazepam. 

There is a patient in the waiting room who has been stable for the past two hours but he appears to be taking a turn for the worse. 

The woman in front of you has severe allergic reactions to Albuterol but is in the middle of a massive asthma attack. 

Paying attention to details isn’t just important — in the ER, it can mean the difference between life and death. 

One of the job requirements of working in the ER as a nurse is the ability to be highly detail-oriented amidst all of the chaos. 

Thanks to modern technical advances, there are many checks and balances in place to help reduce errors but it is still important for nurses to follow procedures and pay attention to the little things. 


What Is the Role of an ER Nurse? 

What exactly is the role of an ER nurse? 

Are they also pediatric nurses? Labor and delivery nurses? Orthopedic nurses? What about psychiatric or neuroscience nurses?

While ER nursing is considered a nursing specialization, ER nurses are all of the above and more. 

An ER nurse’s main role is to assess a patient’s condition and create a care plan quickly and effectively. This might be as simple as giving them aspirin and sending them home for bedrest. It could also mean performing CPR or pushing a life-saving drug through an IV. 

ER nurses are whatever role best fits patient needs at any moment. 

One of the toughest jobs an ER nurse can have is triage. Emergency rooms are a revolving door of people with health concerns ranging from life-threatening to minorly inconvenient. Whatever the case may be, it is up to ER nurses to help formulate a plan and call it to action. 

In some cases treatment might be obvious, like when a patient comes in mid-heart attack or bleeding out from a car accident. 

Other times, it may not be so easy to tell. Patients may look just fine to the untrained eye but could actually be on the verge of a massive medical emergency. Triage nurses have to be able to spot the subtle symptoms and treat them in time. 

Because triage can be such a difficult job and requires extensive knowledge and experience, veteran nurses with years of experience under their belts usually handle this process. One of the biggest benefits of being an ER nurse is the opportunity to make a difference and save lives.


whats it like to be an er nurse


What Conditions Do ER Nurses Typically Treat?

Emergency nurses encounter many conditions with varying degrees of severity — ailments can be minor or life-threatening.

Some common conditions you may find yourself treating as an ER nurse may include: 

  • Chest pains
  • Stroke symptoms
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Severe trauma
  • Burns; or
  • Mental health crises


What Is It Like to Be an ER Nurse? A Peek Into the Day of an ER Nurse

Your sleepy fingers fumble to grab your phone as your foggy eyes adjust to the jarring brightness of the screen. It’s 5 a.m. and you have exactly one hour to be at work. 

You tumble out of bed and stumble to the shower to get your blood pumping before heading to the kitchen to grab a quick breakfast. On your way to work, you pull through the drive-through of your favorite coffee shop and order a cup of ambition. The traffic this morning really is jumping as you make your way to the hospital. 

Here goes another day in your life as an ER nurse. 

Last night was incredibly busy and the night crew looked pretty beat. You take a look at the report from the night nurse before heading to your assigned zone to make sure it is ready for the day. Once you finish restocking supplies, it’s time to wait for your first patient. 

You don’t have to wait long. There is a mom in the waiting room with her toddler who somehow managed to lodge a small candy in his ear. He is pretty shaken and mom seems a little embarrassed. You assure them both that they are in good hands and proceed to remove the problematic confection. 

As the day wears on, you see many different patients with an equally diverse range of symptoms: 

  • A middle-aged man with chest pains who coded within ten minutes but is now admitted and stable in the ICU. 
  • A woman in labor who didn’t have time to make it to her midwife’s birthing center. 
  • A daredevil who wasn’t quite ready for that longboard stunt and broke his leg. 
  • A high school cross-country runner who forgot to hydrate and needs fluids. 
  • A trauma patient from a bad car wreck who didn’t make it. 

Your hours are filled with caring for patients, charting, and keeping your rooms in good order. 

By the time 5:30 p.m. rolls around, you are exhausted and ready to go home. You take one more lap around your zone and let your current patients know that you are heading out for the night but that they will be in great hands with the overnight crew. After turning in your report to the night nurse, it is finally time to head home. You just finished one day working in the ER as a nurse. 

You didn’t get much of a chance to eat during today’s shift so you grab some Chinese takeout on the way home. It was a long day but you know you made a difference and saved lives. 

Once you’re home, you grab a quick shower before hunkering into bed for some rest before you get up and do it again tomorrow. 


what is it like to be an ER nurse


What Are the Benefits of Being an ER Nurse?

Being an ER nurse doesn’t just sound hard — it is hard. But there are some amazing benefits of being an ER nurse.


Meaningful Work

ER nurses help patients during their worst moments. As a nurse working in the ER, they get the opportunity to save lives and support the people who need compassion the most. 

According to the CDC, there is an average of 131.3 million people that arrive in the emergency room each year. Only 38 million of those cases are injury related and only 18.6 million cases require hospital admission. While only 3.1 million cases will result in admission to the critical care unit. 

So whether they are caring for a child who just broke their first bone or preparing someone for emergency surgery, ER nurses can leave every shift knowing that their job matters immensely. 


You’re a Part of a Team

ER nurses make up an incredibly unique team. With all that they see and do together each day, ER teams often become close friends. 

Working as an ER nurse requires collaboration and willingness to learn and work alongside others. The team dynamic of an ER is rare and difficult to find elsewhere.


More Autonomy Than Other Nursing Specialties

Because patients are often in crisis, ER nurses are required to make quicker judgment calls and attempt more procedures than other nurses might. This often gives trauma nurses more autonomy than they might have in other departments.

ER nurses get to do a little bit of almost everything for many different patients.


Always In-Demand

As long as there are humans, there will be emergencies. And as long as there are emergencies, there will be a need for emergency room nurses. 

One of the greatest features of ER nursing is knowing that you have solid job security, even in the middle of an ever-changing employment landscape. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the predicted job growth of emergency room nurses from 2020 to 2030 could be as high as 9%. 

Emergency rooms around the country are constantly looking for qualified nurses who want to make a difference in the ER. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing can help you find even more opportunities to travel and expand your career horizons. Whether you want to travel while working in the ER as a nurse or remain in your preferred department, you can use Pronto to find your dream travel position. 


being an er nurse


Experience What It Is Like to Be an ER Nurse as a Travel Nurse With Trusted Nurse Staffing

If your heart started beating a little faster while you read and you felt the deep longing for adventure seep back into your soul, working in ERs around the country as a travel nurse just might be for you. 

As an ER travel nurse, you get all of the benefits of being an ER nurse plus all of the rewards of being a travel nurse. 

As an ER travel nurse with Trusted Nurse Staffing, you get even more benefits such as:

  • The highest pay rates in the industry 
  • Regular bonuses
  • Great insurance benefits
  • A 4% match 401(k)
  • 24/7 access to your Trusted Partner — a real person who is always there to help you out
  • Housing, meal, and travel stipends (on top of your regular wages. Bonus: these are usually tax-free
  • And much more

Trusted Nurse Staffing has partnered with Pronto to allow nurses the opportunity to review and find travel nursing positions from the comfort of their own home. Whatever travel nursing position you are looking for, Trusted Nurse Staffing and Pronto want to help you find it today!


what is it like to be an ER nurse