Do you enjoy a fast-paced environment with an unpredictability to what your shift may bring? If you do, emergency nursing may be for you. The role of an emergency room nurse is portrayed heavily in entertainment, but a day in the life involves much more than what is depicted on the screen. Emergency room nurses are highly important as they work to treat patients who are suffering from trauma, injury, or severe medical conditions and require urgent treatment. So, is the fast-paced adrenaline-high environment right for you? 

What is Emergency Room Nursing? Where do Emergency Room Nurses Work?

Emergency room nursing is a specialty unit within a hospital where the nurse and the medical team serve to stabilize urgent and traumatic patients as they enter the hospital. As opposed to other areas of nursing, emergency room nursing is a specialty with very little continuity of care. Since the unit is triage, the emergency room team is responsible for stabilizing the patient, transferring them to the necessary unit, or discharging them. Emergency room nurses work in the emergency department, and sometimes they transfer to urgent care since they have similar skill sets. If you are a nurse who prefers seeing the same patient for a few shifts in a row, a different unit might be a better fit. Each hospital will have an individualized nurse-to-patient ratio in the ER, but a minimum of two to six patients at a time can be expected depending on hospital protocols.

Educational and Experience Requirements

Nurses are not required to attend more school or obtain additional training to begin an emergency room position— everything taught in nursing school will be applicable. However, some people may feel more comfortable with a hospital that provides a “residency” or three-month preceptorship program. This allows a new nurse to shadow a veteran nurse and gain on-the-job skills to become more familiar with the fast-paced environment. If a student became interested in emergency room nursing before graduation, participating in a brief rotation while in school can help solidify their decision. 


As the emergency room is a heavily hands-on environment, this unit is ideal for individuals who enjoy procedural-based nursing. For instance, a nurse working in the emergency room will need to demonstrate quick intravenous skills— from splinting broken bones to activating life-saving equipment. As expected, the emergency room serves as the first line of entry to any critical patients. It’s important for an emergency room nurse to have an up-to-date basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support license and certifications. A nurse will certainly be expected to manage many high-stress situations while remaining collected, such as when a patient codes.Time management is also another essential skill for emergency room nurses to possess. Once a nurse has worked in the emergency room department and shown confidence within the unit, they can apply for an emergency room certification to demonstrate their expertise, knowledge, and versatility in emergency room nursing.

Characteristics Employers Look For

An emergency room nurse must be able to thrive in a stressful and unpredictable environment. There will be slower days in the unit and other times where the unit will be overflowing. Therefore, it’s especially important to remain flexible and avoid becoming overwhelmed with elements outside of their control. The emergency room nurse should also be assertive, as they serve as their patient’s advocate and must effectively prioritize care based on the severity of the situation. Additionally, an emergency room nursing role is particularly ideal for nurses with strong coping skills. There will be times where the code was not successful, and this will be difficult to comprehend on an emotional level. In general, it is beneficial for nurses to have a good outlet for dealing with difficult situations. As with nearly all nursing fields, emergency room nurses are expected to work together as a team with all intrapersonal staff.


As the global pandemic continues, emergency room nurses are needed more than ever before. The benefit of working as an emergency room nurse is the ability to help safely stabilize a patient from a critical status and potentially discharge that patient feeling better than before they entered. It takes a strong-minded and quick-thinking individual to succeed in the emergency department. With the right skill set, you can pursue the opportunity to truly save somebody’s life. 


Board of Certification of Emergency Nursing. (n.d.). About the CEN exam. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

Marshall, K. (n.d.). 5 Emergency Nursing Skills You Can Only Learn on the Job. American Mobile. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from


Photo of author Whitney Weingarten FNP-C smiling and wearing a white coat.Whitney Weingarten FNP-C is a nurse practitioner in Atlanta, GA. With a background in primary care, women’s health, and otolaryngology, Whitney has a variety of perspectives to contribute to her patients. Whitney has a passion for preventative care and educating her patients.