How To Become An Emergency Trauma Nurse

What Is An Emergency/Trauma Nurse?

If you are looking for an area of nursing to specialize in, emergency/trauma nursing is only recommended if you are a person who can handle highly stressful situations easily. This is because the main purpose of your job will be to work in emergency healthcare settings, such as emergency rooms at hospitals, where every second counts and where patients may well be experiencing life or death situations.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

The following duties are performed by emergency/trauma nurses on a regular basis:

  • Responding quickly to a patient in an emergency situation – you will usually be one of the first people a patient will see when they come to the hospital.
  • Based on this initial interaction with the patient it will be your job to assess the patient’s situation and determine the degree of care he or she needs.
  • When necessary you will need to be actively involved in stabilizing the patient so that he or she is in no immediate terminal danger.
  • You will need to prepare any equipment that you deem the doctor will find necessary when he or she sees the patient.
  • Communication with the patient’s family regarding the patient’s condition is also part of your job.


Emergency Trauma NurseEmployment opportunities in this line of nursing are fairly stable in that there are always emergency situations occurring across the country that require the expertise of an emergency/trauma nurse to deal with them. Because the skills you will have are aimed at emergency response, you will primarily find employment in hospital emergency rooms as well as in ambulances that respond to the scenes of occurrences such as accidents as well as to the scenes of unexpected health issues. Consequently you will find yourself being employed alongside paramedics, EMTs, and other individuals with an active involvement in emergency care. Whatever the setting that you are employed in may be, you can be guaranteed that it will be fast-paced and carry with it a high degree of stress, especially as patients can be lost on a regular basis.

Emergency/Trauma Nurse Requirements

There are various requirements that are involved in becoming an emergency/trauma nurse and it is very important that you are able to meet these basic requirements. The basic requirements include:

  • A minimum level of education: You need, at the very least, to have completed a training program that allows you to practice as a licensed Registered Nurse.
  • A minimum number of years of experience: This can vary slightly from state to state, but in order to be certified as an emergency/trauma nurse you will need to have a certain number of years of experience in trauma nursing.
  • Personality requirements: Because not everyone is suited for this line of work there are a number of personality requirements that you need to have. These personality requirements will be discussed later in more detail.

Personality Traits

A nurse working in emergency/trauma nursing needs to have the same personality skills as nurses working in other segments of the health care industry. There are a few skills that will, however, prove to be slightly more useful in this setting than in others. For one thing an ability to think quickly and clearly about how best to treat a patient is vital in an emergency care setting. In addition you will need to be able to balance objectivity and compassion and not let your emotional response to your patient’s condition get in the way of your ability to adequately treat that patient. A certain amount of attention to detail will be necessary to accurately diagnose and assess your patient and ensure that he or she is receiving accurate care in the health care setting.

Educational Requirements

As with any nursing qualification there are a number of educational requirements that you will have to meet in order to be an emergency/trauma nurse:

  • Get your high school diploma
  • Enter an LPN program and become a licensed and qualified LPN
  • Enter an RN degree program and become a licensed and qualified RN

An RN program is on that will earn you a diploma in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or a master’s degree in nursing. The more advanced your educational level is the better your resume will look when it comes time to search for a job. In addition you will have more skills which will also means that you will feel more confident in your work. Additional certification to be an emergency/trauma nurse is also necessary.


The license that you need in order to be an emergency/trauma nurse is an RN license. This license can be earned by attending one of the RN programs mentioned above. The program will consist of theory and practical training, both of which are necessary for this qualification. Once you have graduated from the program you will need to apply to your state board of nursing for licensure. If you are approved the next step is to set a date to write the NCLEX-RN examination. Passing the examination will earn you your license. This license will have to be renewed regularly. The renewal period depends on the state that you are licensed in. When renewing your license you may also, according to the laws of each state, be required to present proof of continuing education.

How To Become An Emergency/Trauma Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

Emergency/trauma nurses have a few advancement options open to them. For example if you stay in the job for long enough you could advance to a position where you are in charge of the entire emergency room. The training required for this line of work is the same as basic nursing training. You can train to be an emergency/trauma nurse by:

  • You can do a four or five program at a college or university, or
  • You can do one year of training to become a Licensed Practiced Nurse (LPN) before doing an LPN to RN bridge program, or
  • You can do a two year program in a junior or community college, combined with some hospital training before doing an LPN to RN bridge program, or
  • You can do a three year program run by a hospital or school based on nursing

Source An Accredited Education Program

It is very important that the program that you attend on your way to being an emergency/trauma nurse is accredited by either the Emergency Nurses Association or the Society of Trauma Nurses. If it is not accredited you will be effectively wasting your time and your money as your qualification will count for nothing and you will have to start your studies from scratch. These two associations can provide you on information about any specific programs that you are interested in attending and it will be in your best interests to confirm the accreditation status of any program before you make a final decision regarding whether or not you desire to attend that program. The school itself should also be able to give you this information.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is one of the educational levels that you can achieve in order to become an NR. This degree will allow you to sit the NCLEX-RN examination, which is the national licensing exam for registered nurses. An associate’s degree can take a while to complete as it is usually about a two year program. Consequently you need to be prepared to devote the necessary time to the program. Many schools have an associate’s degree in nursing although some may offer only a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Technical schools, vocational colleges, community colleges, and some universities all offer this qualification. There are also a number of online options but clinical experience is a necessary prerequisite for an associate’s degree, so you need to complete that side of your training in some way as well.

Obtain Your Licensure

There is no special license for being an emergency/trauma nurse. You will need to hold an RN license, but that is all. There is a certification exam that you will be required to pass. Once you have your RN license the following steps must be followed:

  • You need to get on the job training and perhaps some theory training will need to be completed.
  • You will have to work in the ER and sit the exam to become a Certified Emergency Nurse.
  • You will need to train to become a trauma nurse through the American Emergency Nursing Association course (the Trauma Nurse Core Course).

When all of the above requirements have been met you will be in a position to declare yourself as a specialist in the area of emergency/trauma nursing.

Online/Distance Education Programs

Although it is necessary to do a certain amount of practical training in n actual emergency setting before you can become an emergency trauma nurse you are able to do the Trauma Nurse Core Course online in order to receive your certification. Note that this method of study can be a lot more convenient in that you will not need to attend classroom based lectures and will therefore not have to give up your job. It must be noted, however, that not all of the many online training programs are accredited and that you may not have the right personality for online studying as it requires a high degree of self-motivation that does not come naturally to all students. Careful consideration must be made of all the factors and options surrounding the question of online study.

Job Outlook

A career as an emergency/trauma nurse is a good one to choose if you are concerned about job stability. There are two reasons for this:

  • The nursing industry in general is growing at a fast rate, faster than all other industries, meaning that there will be more jobs for all nurses.
  • In addition, with a specialty in a certain nursing domain your skills will also be in higher demand, meaning that you will have additional employment opportunities.
  • Because you also have basic nursing training you will not only be able to work in the emergency/trauma sector, but also in any other facility where nurses are not necessarily required to hold a specialization of any kind.

As jobs go, this is one of the more secure options for you to consider.


The average salary that you can earn as an emergency/trauma nurse is about $43,404 to $86,694 a year. The variations depend on the level of education that you have as well as what area you work in. different states tend to offer different rates of pay, and even within states you will find that there are significant differences between cities in terms of how much you can earn as an emergency/trauma nurse. The cities that pay the most are:

  • Oakland, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Sacramento, California
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Modesto, California
  • Orange, California
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Fresno, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Diego, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • New York, New York
  • Riverside, California
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Washington, District of Columbia
  • Long Beach, California
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Although being an emergency/trauma nurse can be highly stressful, there are a number of advantages to choosing this career, such as the high rate of pay and the sense that you are achieving something meaningful on a daily basis. It is up to you, at a personal level, to weigh up to possible cons with the possible pros of the position. Employment in this area of nursing does not have to be your final stop – because you will have general nurse training you will always have the option to leave the emergency arena and train in another specialty or work as a general nurse.

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