Facts About Emergency/Trauma Nursing

What Is An Emergency/Trauma Nurse?

An emergency/trauma nurse is one that works in possibly the most intensive and most stressful situation in a hospital. Their job is to be on call in the emergency room where patients can come when they experience an accident or a sudden onset of an illness. Ambulances also bring their patients to the emergency room. Consequently life or death situations are a major part of your day and consequently not everyone can handle this job.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

There are a number of duties specific to being a trauma nurse that would not necessarily arise in other nursing settings. For one thing, as you are often one of the first people that a patient will see when entering the emergency room, it will be one of your responsibilities to assess the patient and determine the level of care that he or she will require form the doctor. In addition you will need to stabilize the patient although this is not always something that can be achieved. The doctor who will see the patient will require certain tools and equipment for that patient’s particular condition. Preparing this equipment will also be one of your duties as an emergency/trauma nurse. Speaking with the patient’s family is also a requirement in this line of work.


Emergency Trauma NurseEmployment in this field is generally in fast-paced and stressful situations. The two primary place sin which you could be employed as an emergency/trauma nurse are:

  • Hospital emergency rooms
  • Ambulances

These are the two settings that exist specifically in order to deal with emergency situations such as motor accidents and unforeseen illnesses. The hours in this area of employment are not good as there always needs t be someone on duty either in the emergency room or in the ambulance. The nature of the job is that there is no way to predict what will happen. Consequently you need to be on call at inconvenient times in order to account for the many unexpected and unforeseeable health care emergencies that arise on a daily basis across the country.

Emergency/Trauma Nurse Requirements

A general overview of the requirements required to be an emergency/trauma nurse would include an account of the educational requirements, the experience requirements, and the personality requirements that you need for the job. At the very least you need to have completed an RN program and be eligible to practice as an RN. In addition there are usually a certain number of years of experience required by each state before you can be certified as an emergency/trauma nurse. This experience can be earned by working in a health care setting where you will be required to deal with emergencies on a regular basis, such as the emergency room. Last but not least there are a number of personality requirements involved as this is not a line of work that every nurse is automatically suited for.

Personality Traits

The following personality traits are required for emergency/trauma nurses:

  • In an emergency situation a quick thinker who can think on her feet and under pressure will be a great asset.
  • Consequently you need to avoid being too focused on detail that you are unable to make a decision quickly. However a certain degree of attention to detail will be required because mistakes can have serious consequences in a setting like this.
  • As a nurse you need compassion, but you also need objectivity. If you are o sympathetic to the patient’s needs that you are no longer able to function you will not be able to help that patient.
  • Emergency response workers work in teams, so an ability to work in a team will be extremely helpful in your career as an emergency/trauma nurse.

Educational Requirements

There is something of an educational progression that you will need to work your way through when becoming an emergency/trauma nurse. To start off with you will need a high school diploma or an equivalent of a high school diploma, such as a GED. Once you have graduated from high school you will be eligible to enter an LPN or an RN program. The minimum level of education that you will need to work as an emergency/trauma nurse is an RN qualification. RN qualifications are earned through:

  • Diploma programs in nursing
  • Associate’s degree programs in nursing
  • Bachelor’s degree programs in nursing
  • Master’s degree program in nursing

After you have become a licensed RN and have earned the required experience you will be able to take the emergency/trauma nurse certification exam.


There are some fairly basic steps that you can follow in order to become licensed as an RN. An RN license is a requirement for being certified as an emergency/trauma nurse:

  • Firstly you need to complete and graduate from an accredited nursing program. These nursing programs are offered at technical schools and community colleges.
  • Once you have completed the program an application must be sent to your state board of nursing requesting licensure.
  • When your licensure is confirmed you will have to set a date to write the licensing exam.
  • Passing the exam will earn you your RN license.
  • In order to maintain your license and thereby your right to work as an RN you will need to periodically renew your license. The renewal periods differ from state to state.

How To Become An Emergency/Trauma Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

To become an emergency/trauma nurse you have a few options. Many nurses choose to become LPNs first as this means that they are able to work sooner than if they try to become an RN right from the start. An LPN qualification can serve as a useful stepping stone on your way to becoming an RN. In addition you would simply work towards an RN degree from the beginning, but this could take as much as four years to complete. The real question is whether or not you will have the capacity to study for so long without working to maintain yourself and pay the bills. Advancement is an option as many emergency/trauma nurses become managers in the field or even go on to being EMTs or paramedics after some additional training.

Source An Accredited Education Program

It is essential that the program that you complete is accredited. If it is not accredited your qualification will count for nothing and you will be unable to become an emergency/trauma nurse unless you complete a completely different course from the beginning. The bodies that accredit courses in this specialty are:

  • The Emergency Nurses Association
  • The Society of Trauma Nurses

Consequently the best way to determine whether or not a program is accredited is by contacting one of both of these bodies and asking them to confirm the accreditation status of a particular program that you are interested in attending. Sometimes associations such as these have a list of accredited programs on their website which will save you time. Schools themselves should be open about their accreditation but they are not always honest.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

To earn you associate’s degree in nursing you will need to:

  • Look into what technical schools, vocational schools, community colleges and universities in your area offer nursing degree programs.
  • Some will offer associate’s degree while other will offer bachelors or master’s degrees, or all three. Choose the level of degree you would like to earn.
  • Enquire at each school about the duration of the program as well as to whether or not they provide financial aid.
  • Short list your favorite nursing schools that meet your requirements.
  • Choose one and complete the associate’s degree requirements that that particular program has.
  • When you graduate from the program after the two years that it (usually) takes you will have successfully earned your associate’s degree and you are now eligible to sit the NCLEX-RN exam.

Obtain Your Licensure

The only licensure that you need to be an emergency/trauma nurse is your RN license. However there is a certification that you can get in this area. Once you have your RN license you need to complete the required amount of clinical experience in the area of trauma nursing. This can be done in the emergency room of the hospital where you work. You will also need to do some theory. There is an exam that you will have to sit in order to become a Certified Emergency Nurse and in order to prepare for this exam you need to complete training through the American Emergency Nursing Association course (the Trauma Nurse Core Course). Meeting these requirements will certify you as a trauma nurse and you will be eligible to practice as an expert in the field.

Online/Distance Education Programs

The Trauma Nurse Core Course can be completed online, provided that you take responsibility for doing your clinical experience in an emergency health care setting. This hands-on training is necessary, but the training course itself is just theory and there are many online resources to help you prepare for the exam. There, however, potential drawback to online study:

  • Without a lecturer or teacher pushing them many nurses do not give the course the attention it needs.
  • Many students who attend brick and mortar programs report that the class discussions with other students were valuable in helping them learn.
  • You may lack necessary guidance in terms of whether you are on the right track or not.

That being said online study also many advantages such as flexibility and the fact that these programs can be cheaper.

Job Outlook

From 2012 to 2013 we expect to see a growth rate in jobs for all RN nurses of 26%. This means that there will be more jobs to choose from and more job stability as you can always be guaranteed of employment. As an emergency/trauma nurse you have also received basic nursing training. This training makes you eligible for employment in sectors of the nursing industry where a specialty in nursing is not required, such as a normal hospital ward. So, as an emergency trauma nurse you benefit on two counts, firstly because your specialized skills will be in high demand in an ever growing nursing profession, and secondly because you will benefit in the same way as any other nurse from the growth in the industry. As jobs go there are few as stable as this one.


Earnings can depend on the area that you work in as a nurse as certain cities tend to come with higher salaries than other. That being said you can expect, on average, to earn from about $43,404 to $86,694 as an emergency/trauma nurse, which is not bad at all and considerably higher than the average for general RNs.  The industry that you work in can also affect your rate of pay:

  • Healthcare = $21.29 – $37.36 a year
  • Hospital = $21.67 – $38.11 a year
  • Acute Care Hospital = $22.15 – $39.20 a year
  • Emergency Medical Services = $20.95 – $37.21 a year
  • Nurse Staffing = $21.49 – $40.19 a year

Your employer is another factor to consider:

  • HCA, Inc. = $24.45 – $35.57 a year
  • Kaiser Permanente = $28.60 – $59.47 a year
  • Memorial Hospital = $18.75 – $37.63 a year
  • Texas Health Resources = $28.49 – $32.22 a year
  • Halifax Medical Center = $22.47 – $25.87 a year

The salary that you can earn is clearly one of the bright points in this area of nursing, but you need to weigh up the salary against the high level of stress that you will experience as well as the fast paced environment that you will work in to determine if it is worthwhile for you at a personal level. There are a number of other specialties to consider as well if you feel that you are not cut out for this one.

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