An emergency room nurse is a hospital worker who cares for patients with urgent medical concerns. A professional helps physicians assess the severity of a patient's injury or illness, prepares diagnostic equipment, and provides post-treatment care and counseling. Skilled nurses also perform first aid procedures, administer medications, and set casts to take some of the workload off of doctors. Since patients come into the emergency room with all different types of health problems, a nurse needs to possess a very broad knowledge of trauma and disease.
A primary duty of an emergency room nurse is judging the severity of patients' conditions in order to prioritize the use of limited emergency room facilities. Patients who are in intense pain or appear to be suffering from life-threatening problems receive attention first. Determining the urgency of a situation is not always straightforward, however, and a nurse must be able to look for subtle indicators that a patient needs immediate care.
Once a patient is admitted into a room, a nurse obtains information about symptoms, checks vital signs, and provides first aid care if necessary. An emergency room nurse needs to know how to stop bleeding, immobilize extremities, cleanse wounds, and administer intravenous fluids. Once a doctor is available, the nurse explains the patient's condition and offers his or her professional opinion on diagnostic and treatment measures. The nurse provides both physical and emotional care for patients during procedures to maximize their comfort. Following treatment, a nurse might arrange for follow-up medical care and explain the proper way to take medications and care for an injury at home.
It is common for an emergency room nurse to work long shifts under hectic conditions. A calm, confident demeanor is essential to ensure patients receive the best possible care in a timely manner. Most emergency rooms are always open, and nurses are often required to work rotating daytime, overnight, and weekend shifts. In addition, nurses often assume on-call status when not at the hospital to make themselves available in the event of a disaster or an epidemic.
A person who wants to become an emergency room nurse usually needs to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program and pass a licensing examination to earn registered nurse credentials. After gaining one to two years of experience, a nurse can take an additional test to become a certified emergency room nurse. Many professionals pursue continuing education while working at hospitals to earn master's degrees in the specialty. With an advanced degree and the appropriate training, an individual has the opportunity to become a nurse practitioner and assume an administrative position at a hospital.