Emergency Room Nurse Career Information

Emergency room nurses (ERNs) deal with a tough series of situations which can happen at any time. They're situation managers as much as nurses, at least some of the time during their daily work. ERNs provide a truly vital service to the community. Their work saves lives on a daily basis. This is one of the most highly respected jobs in the profession.

The work environment

The emergency room is the entry point to treatment for people in serious medical conditions requiring immediate treatment. This service provides "triage", the initial assessment of the person's condition and first stage treatment. The emergency room nurse acts as an organizer, as well as provider of various treatment services. In concert with the resident physician, the ERN deals with these cases situation by situation as they arise, and works to ensure provision of all necessary services and logistics. Typical emergency room cases include:

  • Workplace or domestic injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Gunshot and other wounds
  • Car accident victims
  • Medical emergencies

These cases arrive in any numbers, and the ERN often has multiple priorities to deal with, as well as being extremely busy with active cases of treatment. ER cases are prioritized on a needs basis, the most urgent getting priority. In some cases there may be multiple patients all with legitimate claims on urgent treatment, so the resident must decide which goes first. The ERN has to follow the procedures for each case based on those decisions. This is very much a team effort, and it has to work seamlessly as far as possible to ensure best practice and efficiency.

This is the basic workflow pattern, and the entire process depends on the ERN providing the organizational support to get things done efficiently and effectively from the moment the patient enters the emergency room.

Wages and Hours

Registered Nurses median rate is $60,000. Nursing shifts vary depending on absences and emergency situations. ERNs are often "on call."

Career Advancement 

Even by the very demanding standards of the nursing profession, the ERN's role is acknowledged as a true frontline position. It's also excellent experience in the realities of professional nursing as a whole. It provides intensive experience in all facets of fundamental nursing skills and procedures.

ERN career progression is organizationally based, with senior management positions going to experienced nurses in the field. This is a natural requirement of the higher levels of ERN management, needing experts who know the entire layout and procedures in depth. ERNs may move to specific areas of care like pediatrics, or to other areas of nursing where the ERN experience makes them good managers of their workloads with a thorough understanding of the processes of care, preparation, emergency surgery and treatment.

One area of employment for ERNs which is often overlooked is the military, where their work is a natural fit to military M.A.S.H. procedures. This particular career path can often lead to senior roles over the course of a career, on the same basis of expertise and organizational skills.