ER Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
Patients come to the ER for many different reasons, and as a result, ER nurses are exposed to every type of patient and health condition.
While America’s reliance on emergency department care continues to grow, so too does the national nursing shortage. ER nurses will continue to find that the need for their abilities and training translates into a booming job market, and the opportunity to take their skills on the road to work as travel ER nurses in their pick of geographic areas.
What is an ER Nurse?
ER nurses provide care to patients suffering from severe medical conditions, trauma, and injuries. Though a large part of their role is devoted to urgent patient care for patients experiencing medical emergencies, there are also patients who need less critical care.
No two days are ever alike, as ER nurses treat diverse populations with needs ranging from the very minor to the traumatic.
Patients come to the ER seeking care following both accidents and illnesses and involving every body part and system. Triage is an important part of an ER nurse’s role. These nurses assess the needs of patients to prioritize their care based on severity and the need for immediate treatment.
The most common conditions that bring patients to the ER include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Upper respiratory infections
- Strains and sprains
- Superficial injuries
- Chest pain
The location of the emergency room and the type of care setting it is can play a role in the type of cases that are seen. Orthopedic hospital emergency rooms will see a greater number of broken and fractured bones, for example, while pediatric hospital emergency rooms will see entirely different patient needs.
ER nurses must assess each patient’s needs quickly, often with the challenge of panicked patients. ER nurses work with a tightly-knit care team, including specialists like radiologists and orthopedists. They also attend to more mundane tasks, including patient documentation and stocking and preparing emergency department rooms.
In all cases, ER nurses need to be able to adjust quickly to an environment that can change at a moment’s notice, and their resilience and ability to adapt is just one reason why they are so well suited to take their role on the road as ER travel nurses.
ER Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for an ER nurse is $93,405 per year, with an expectation that the more experienced a nurse, the higher their salary will grow. ER nurses also have the opportunity to earn compensation well beyond their base salary by signing on for shift differentials, overtime, and on-call hours.
Keep in mind that different emergency departments will likely offer different compensation — community hospitals may not pay their ER nurses as much as specialized centers like pediatric hospitals or oncology center emergency rooms.
The national average salary for an ER nurse is $93,405 per year, though more experienced ER nurses can likely expect higher salaries.
ER nurses can expect significant opportunities for ER nurse job security and growth potential. The combination of the growing reliance on emergency room services, the surge in the number of urgent care clinics, and the national nurse shortage has made their skills increasingly valuable.
Facilities are working hard to both recruit and retain ER nurses by offering attractive perks and benefits. Many have been moved to use travel ER nurses to address staff shortages and to provide relief for overworked, stressed full-time staffers.
Top Paying Cities for ER Nurses in 2021
According to ZipRecruiter.com, here are the best paying cities for ER nurses in 2021:
- San Francisco, CA: $114,664 per year
- Fremont, CA: $110,073 per year
- San Jose, CA: $107,519 per year
- Nantucket, MA: $107,120 per year
- Oakland, CA: $106,343 per year
ER Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications, and Professional Groups
Despite the broad knowledge base required by the job, there is no specialized training or certification to become an emergency room nurse. That said, there are some basic requirements that must be met to become an ER nurse, including:
- Earn either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed, registered nurse
A nurse who wants to work in the ER’s fast-paced setting can generally move into that role straight out of nursing school. Temperament combined with the required nursing education is the most important qualification for working in the emergency room.
Once an RN has two years of experience in the ER, they can pursue the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential that is offered by the Emergency Nurses Association. This healthcare certification provides colleagues, patients, and employers with confidence in the nurse’s knowledge of ER best practices.
In addition to credentialing, the Emergency Nurses Association provides knowledge-building opportunities and conferences designed to help trauma nurses and emergency room nurses develop the competencies for career advancement.
The Pros and Cons of Being an ER Nurse
Pros of ER Nursing
- Opportunity to see a wide range of medical conditions
- Fast-paced, exciting environment that requires the ability to think fast and multi-task
- Respect of peers and community
Cons of ER Nursing
- High-stress, chaotic work environment
- Patients are frequently suffering from traumatic injuries and significant disability, or death
- Patient families are often fearful, panicked, and demanding
Travel Nursing as an ER Nurse
ER nurses require both technical skills and specific personality traits, especially since they work in a chaotic, fast-paced environment. These nursing jobs demand quick thinking and the ability to assess and prioritize patient needs while remaining calm and in command.
An ER nurse interested in becoming an ER travel nurse will find competitive compensation and benefits, including higher hourly rates and non-taxable stipends for food and housing. And, as an in-demand specialty, there are often ER travel nurse contracts across the country at all kinds of facilities.