Emergency Department nursing is hard, I’m not gonna lie. You see the best and worst in people in this field, and that’s not just with patients. Nursing can also be the most rewarding thing you ever do, if you just work at it. Here are the big reasons you should become an ER nurse.
An ER nursing career is job security.
Let’s face it. People are ALWAYS going to need the Emergency Department, and ERs are always going to need nurses. People are going to get sick, or they are going to get injured. There will never NOT be a time when a group of 20-somethings are hanging out on a Friday night and someone says, “Hold my beer and watch this.”
Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, strokes and accidents are some of the leading causes of death in the US, and all of them have the potential for landing a patient in the ER.
Being an ER nurse gives you job security for that very reason. ER nurses are in high demand because at some point, everyone needs one.
Being an ER Nurse teaches you.
In emergency department nursing, you learn a little bit about everything. During a typical 12-hour shift, you can have a respiratory patient, a diabetic, a heart patient, someone with GI trouble, a cancer patient and a heart attack (sometimes 4 at once).
You get acute injuries and chronic health conditions, and you learn something every single day you work. This gives you a solid base of support for lots of job opportunities in a variety of settings.
While I’ve been primarily an ER nurse, I have also worked oncology, radiology, interventional radiology, home health and surgery. I also spent a brief amount of time as a school nurse I used what I learn in the ER in every one of those other settings.
ER nurses take care of a wide range of patients, from those with unmanaged chronic disease to the aging population to those who shouldn’t even be in an ER in the first place. We are a public health clinic, mental health facility, as well as a dumping ground for doctor’s offices (unfortunately).
We can be a bedside nurse, a delivery nurse, dietary, housekeeping, secretary and a nurse educator all while managing to keep patients alive and provide excellent patient care.
The work schedules of an ER nurse is pretty flexible.
A flexible schedule is another highlight of being an ER nurse. Most ER nurses work three 12-hour shifts. That’s 4 days off. That’s a lot of time, when you think about it.
With the current (and seemingly neverending) nursing shortage that is constantly reported about, there are endless opportunities to work overtime. If you want to branch out and work as needed (PRN), you can do so at other hospitals and still work your full time job as well. Or if you want to stay with the hospital where you have a full time job, you can inquire about working PRN in different areas so you can learn new things.
ER nurses make pretty good money.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of an RN in 2021 was $37.31 per hour, or almost $78,000 per year. Most hospitals will offer additional money for advanced nursing education (BSN degree, for example), advanced certifications and nursing experience, even if it isn’t in the ER.
The salary of an ER nurse varies from place to place, but most of the time as needed (PRN nurses) make more that staff nurses due to the lack of benefits with PRN status.
There are days when ER nurses are worth $37 an hour, and there are days when we feel we are worth much, much more.
You have the opportunity to grow.
Being an ER nurse, much like the entire medical field, gives you the opportunity to grow professionally and academically.
Many ERs have advanced certifications available, some of which are payed for by the institution. Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and PALS (pediatric advanced life support) are all certifications that my hospital pays for me to have.
You can also get certified in things such as Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC), Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) as well as many more. You can also become a nurse educator in these certifications and make additional money teaching things you already need to know as a nurse.
There are additional advanced degrees that many hospitals will help cover part of the tuition for. The hospital that I worked for helped me pay for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN, Bachelor’s degree) as long as I agreed to work for them for two years after graduating. That same hospital had also paid for nursing school, so I ended up with very minimal financial debt when I graduated with my associate nursing degree. Being almost debt free as I began down my career path made everything a little less stressful.
Career advancement can also include becoming nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist, or completing your Master’s in Science of Nursing (MSN). Many of these are mostly or fully online programs, meaning you don’t have to move or do a substantial amount of traveling in most cases.
While accomplished academic advancement was never my goal, it is nice to know that it’s out there if I choose one day to pursue it.
Want an exciting career? Look at the ER.
As I have previously stated, you learn A LOT as an ER nurse. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and paramedics make up the majority of the healthcare providers in an ER and are responsible for most of the work.
We rarely have time to sit down. We are constantly moving, treating patients, helping family members and organizing chaos. We have IVs to start, meds to give, compressions to do, orders to acknowledge and new nurses to train. Health care is our calling, and we give the best care to every patient.
Doing CPR and treating heart arrhythmias is probably my favorite part of emergency medicine. My favorite saying in regards to my job is, “you’re gonna get injured or really, really sick. I just want to be there when you do.”
Nursing is a well respected job.
According the Gallup global analytics firm, nurses have been ranked as the most trusted profession for 20 years in a row. If that doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what will.
If you need more convincing, 84% of patients voted that they deemed nurse’s honesty and ethical standards at “high” or “very high”, while doctors were voted 17% points behind nurses. United States patients trust nurses more than doctors.
Patients trust nurses MORE THAN NURSES. Let that sink in.
You get to make a difference with a rewarding career.
You probably won’t make a difference in every patient’s life. Most of them probably won’t even remember your name. You won’t change many people’s lives. But for the few that actually emergently need your help, they will remember you.
The family of the patient who came in in full cardiac arrest will remember you when you usher them into a room to wait anxiously to hear whether their loved one made it. They will remember you when you stand by the doctor as they deliver the news, either good or bad.
The patient having a heart attack will remember you easing their pain right before the cath lab whisks them off for emergent intervention.
The patient whose life you save will remember the day, the circumstances and how exactly you saved their life (and don’t be surprised if they even remember what you were wearing).
I have explained the reasons you should be an ER nurse. Let’s talk about some reasons why you may not want to grace the doors of an emergency department.
If you don’t thrive in chaos, You should not be an ER nurse. Healthcare professionals in emergency medicine provide patient care on one patient while thinking about all of the things they have to do for the next. We are excellent multitaskers
If you feel entitled to lunchtime and breaks, or have a bladder so tiny that there always has to be a bathroom nearby, you may not like us much. As much as I’d like to say we get the breaks that “the state mandates we are to receive” or whatever, we don’t 6/10 times. It’s the nature of the beast and those of us that know it know to be happy throwing down half of a sandwich while running to the bathroom for the 1 to 3 times we may get a bathroom break.
If you can’t take criticism well (either constructive or not), this may not be your bag, baby. We have to know what we are doing, and if you don’t we’ll let you know. Some of us will be nice about it and some of us won’t be.
If you think you know it all or can’t ask questions, you seriously need not apply at all. You may want to rethink your entire nursing profession.
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