Have you ever watched hospital dramas and thought that being an ER nurse would be a fun career? Being an ER nurse is no small feat. It’s not always like on TV shows, but the constant stream of work they do is pretty accurate.
This is why this is such a highly in-demand job.
If you are thinking about going into ER nursing, then you should know what you are getting into. It takes a very special kind of person to be an ER nurse.
What is an ER Nurse Exactly?
An ER nurse is a registered nurse that works with doctors and medical technicians to save lives in different critical situations. The job is fast-paced and requires experience, training, and character to be able to assess a wide variety of medical situations and respond to problems in an instant.
A person can come in with the flu and be dehydrated, or they could be in the middle of a heart attack.
Your duties depend on where you are, but the usual tasks involve giving medications, taking blood, monitoring diagnostic equipment, and assisting physicians.
You also are the one who probably interacts the most with the patients. You answer their questions, get them anything they need, or give them updates about the test they had taken.
Even though they usually work in hospital emergency rooms, they can also work in free-standing ERs, urgent care centers, in ambulances, at large public events, on cruise ships through disaster relief organizations, and as part of helicopter evacuation teams.
Education Needed to Become an ER Nurse
You should have a bachelor’s of science in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or have graduated from an accredited and approved nursing program. You also need a nursing license, which you get after graduating from an approved nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
You need to have an American Heart Association Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) credentials. You should also get Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and Crisis Prevention and Intervention (CPI).
There may be other requirements depending on which state you work in.
What is a Typical Shift for an ER Nurse?
It’s hard to define an ER nurse shift because every day is always so different. They treat patients who are dealing with critical trauma, injuries, or illnesses. They are able to recognize when people have life-threatening problems and are able to prioritize them.
Average ER Nurse Salary
The average ER nurse salary is around $72,532, though this can change depending on where you are working, your education, and experience. A good estimated range is $64,777 to $80,568.
The entry-level ER nurse salary is around $56,000 a year. You can also get more with overtime hours. A lot of nurses end up working a lot of overtime.
Benefits That Come with Being an ER Nurse
On top of the ER nurse salary, this job comes with benefits. Here are just some of the best ones that you can get.
1. Job Security
People are always going to get sick, and it takes a special kind of person to be an ER nurse. So you will never have to worry about if your job is at stake. Any job in the healthcare field is recession-proof.
In fact, nursing jobs are supposed to increase by 15% by 2026. Some people think this is because the aging American population is growing larger rapidly.
2. Flexible Work Schedules
You basically get to choose when and how much you work. You can choose to work 4, 8, 10, or 12-hour shifts. You can also choose whether you work weekdays, weekends, or a mixture of the two.
Of course, there will be times when you have to work shifts when you don’t want to, but overall there is more freedom than in jobs in other fields.
3. Fringe Benefits
Most employers pay 100% of continuing education expenses for any nurse that works for them. Most hospitals also offer free lab work each year.
Then there are paid holidays, sick leave, and paid time off.
4. Tax Saving Plans
Most healthcare employers will match any amount of money you put into your saving account. So for example, if your salary is $100,000 and you put $4,000 into your account, then hospital will match that. That makes $8,000 in your account.
5. Pension Plans
Depending on how many years you’ve worked for the organization, they may offer retirement benefits. The longer you work for them, the better the benefits.
6. Adoption Assistance and Child Care
Sometimes childcare is one of the biggest hurdles that people have to conquer so that they can work. This is especially true for single parents. Some employers will offer ER nurses any help they need to care for their family.
Employers of ER nurses often provide a variety of insurances. They offer life insurance, which means that money will be given to your family if you are in an accident and killed.
They also offer dental and vision insurance, which is great. Most employers outside of the healthcare field don’t offer that as an option.
Then, of course, there is health insurance. This is usually extended to your family as well.
8. Helping People
A majority of people who go into nursing want to help people. As an ER nurse, you will help people in a variety of situations. It could be a kid with an earache or someone who was in an accident and is barely breathing.
As a nurse, you are the most human part of the ER experience. When people see you, they are usually scared and you are able to soothe them.
9. Never Bored
If there is one thing that is for sure about ER nursing, it’s that you will never be bored. No two days are the same. You could have an easy day filled with dehydrated people, but then another day could be filled with trauma patient after trauma patient.
Traveling ER Nurse
You do have the option of becoming a traveling ER nurse. This is exactly what it sounds like: You go across the country helping out at different emergency rooms. This is a very in-demand job at the moment because there is such a shortage of ER nurses in general.
Basically, when a hospital is extremely understaffed, they will hire a traveling nurse company, which will then hire you.
Traveling ER Nurse Salary
Traveling ER nurses can actually make more than a nurse in a steady gig, though your pay depends on which state you work in and which contracts you choose to accept. You still get overtime pay as well when you are a traveling ER nurse.
Because you are still an ER nurse, you get the same benefits as an ER nurse in a steady gig. So you will get insurance, fringe benefits, and pension plans. You will also get special benefits like travel coverage, housing stipends, and possibly even a food allowance. Again, this depends on the type of contract you accept.
How Do You Become an ER Travel Nurse?
So you need the same education that ER nurses need in a steady gig. You will also need to take the exam to get a proper license.
Most travel positions will need a Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and TNCC (Trauma Nurse Core Course) credentials. TNCC is usually the most difficult of these certifications to obtain as the course and test are not offered as often as other certifications.
Then depending on what state you are working in, you may have to do more.
Pros of Being an ER Nurse
Here is a list that sums up the good aspects of being an ER nurse.
Cons of Being an ER Nurse
Here is a list that sums up the bad aspects of being an ER nurse.
Helping People While Helping Yourself
Because of what ER nurses do, they help thousands of people when they are sick and scared. Because of how well any ER nurse salary is, you are also able to help yourself.
You are able to make a good living and live comfortably. If you are the type of person who likes to problem solve, are able to handle stressful situations, and are an empathic person, then ER nursing is the right job for you.
If all this sounds good, but you would rather travel, remember that is an option. So not only will you be helping patients, but you will be helping overtired staff members as well. You will also be able to make a good living because traveling nurses make more than other ER nurses in a steady gig.