Pros and Cons of a Career as an Emergency Nurse
Emergency room nurses take care of patients in urgent medical situations by assisting doctors in the delivery room, conducting diagnostic tests, administering patient medications and more. Keep reading for a more exhaustive cost-benefit analysis of a career as an emergency nurse.
|Pros of a Career as an Emergency Nurse|
|Higher-than-average earning potential (approximately $66,640 median annual salary)*|
|Good benefits (among the perks are sign-on bonuses and paid training)*|
|Fast job growth (the employment of registered nurses was projected to grow by 19% through 2022)*|
|Plenty of opportunities for advancement (potential positions include unit manager and chief of nursing)*|
|Cons of a Career as an Emergency Nurse|
|High stress (the emotional demands of the job can lead to burnout)*|
|Strenuous physical activity (constant lifting, walking and bending required)*|
|Exhausting work schedule (they may be on call round-the-clock)*|
|Hazardous work environment (frequent exposure to biological waste and pathogens)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Description and Duties
Emergency nurses are responsible for tending to patients in a variety of urgent medical situations. They execute a diverse range of professional duties throughout the course of a working day, from assisting doctors in the delivery room to conducting diagnostic tests to administering patient medications. They may also provide services that go beyond emergency care, such as disease and injury prevention, health consultation and chronic illness management. More specific job duties may vary depending on professional environment and area of specialization.
Job Prospects and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for all registered nurses was projected to be strong through 2022. The employment of nurses nationally was estimated to grow by 19%, nearly double the average rate for all occupations. Job prospects may be strongest for nurses who are employed in outpatient care centers and who hold bachelor's degrees. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for certified emergency nurses employed nationwide was about $65,000 in 2015.
Career Paths and Specializations
Emergency nurses may practice in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, crisis intervention centers, correctional facilities, emergency care facilities and air ambulances. Organizations such as the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) offers specialty certifications in flight nursing, ground transportation, general emergency nursing and pediatric emergency nursing.
Career Skills and Requirements
You may gain the educational training necessary for becoming an emergency nurse by completing a diploma, associate's and/or bachelor's degree programs. Once you've completed one or more of these programs, you'll be required to obtain a nursing license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). More training, exams and continuing education programs will be required for obtaining certification in nursing specialties.
You'll need to rely on a number of hard and soft skills to successfully complete your professional tasks. These may include:
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Strong coping skills for handling stress and work demands of varying intensity
- The abilities to empathize and sympathize with individuals
- The ability to assess subtle indications that may point to changes in the emotional and physical status of patients
- The ability organize different, often divergent tasks
Job Postings from Real Employers
A job search for emergency nurses conducted in November 2012 revealed several openings that required applicants to have prior experience in emergency nursing. There were also some attractive benefits packages with features ranging from signing bonuses to relocation assistance. Here are a few actual postings from that search:
- A pediatric emergency department in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, sought a full-time pediatric emergency nurse skilled in suturing and with prior experience in pediatric emergency medicine.
- A hospital in Santa Barbara, California, looked for an emergency nurse registered in California to work in its level-two trauma center. The right candidate would also have prior experience in emergency nursing.
- A hospital in Tucson, Arizona, looks for an emergency nursing candidate who is licensed in Arizona, has at least two years of experience in emergency nursing, at least one year of experience in acute care and holds CPR certification.
How to Stand Out
You can distinguish yourself by joining and/or taking advantage of professional organizations, such as the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and the Center for Emergency Education (CEME). The ENA offers continuing education courses in a variety of areas, such as pediatric emergency nursing and trauma nursing. You'll also be able to take advantage of the organization's annual conference, which showcases the latest in emergency health care technology.
The CEME offers lectures for emergency medical professionals in areas such as advanced emergency nursing, pediatric emergency medicine and high risk emergency medicine. In addition to lectures, CEME also offers DVD, MP3 and CD learning products.
Other Careers to Consider
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)/Paramedic
If you think that a career as an emergency nurse may be a bit too stationary and desire a career that allows you more movement beyond the confines of a hospital, you may consider looking into the EMT/paramedic field. These professionals are required to hold at least a high school diploma or a related credential and CPR certification before commencing basic training. EMTs must go through basic, intermediate and/or advanced levels of formal training. Paramedics, however, are required to obtain the most advanced EMT and medical skills.
Once they've completed training, both EMTs and paramedics must successfully complete the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) examination. Professional duties include administering first aid, transferring patients to trauma facilities and ensuring that supplies are sanitized. The BLS estimated that, in 2011, the mean annual wage of EMTs and paramedics nationwide was about $34,000.
Perhaps the salary of an emergency nurse is not quite as high as you'd like. If this is the case, you may consider a career as a physician assistant. Although these professionals are required to hold at least a master's degree, the investment you make in obtaining the education may more than pay off. The BLS estimated that in 2011, the mean annual wage of physician assistants nationwide was about $89,000. In addition, the employment rate for physician assistants was projected to grow by about 30% through 2020, more than twice the average rate of growth for all occupations.
Physician assistants are required to obtain a license by successfully completing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. Their professional duties may range from administering health exams, evaluating medical histories and administering diagnostic exams. They may also be required to complete office work.