Can a New Nurse Work in the ER?

an emergency room sign
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In this article we’re going to answer a question I’m sure many nursing students or soon to be nurses are probably asking themselves which is, can a new nurse work in the ER?

The answer is not as clear cut as it might seem but:

Yes, a new nurse can work in the ER. It might be hard to get a job in the ER as a new nurse but it is possible and one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting an ER nursing job is to network.

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What is Emergency Room Nursing?

Emergency room nursing is a nursing specialty where you’re taking care of patients who come into the ER with acute symptoms (source).

The type of acute symptoms, the type of patients, and the level of acuity can vary wildly depending on the ER, the day, the month and the season.

The level of acuity can vary from minor cuts and bruises (which could be handled at a primary care office) to patients who are bleeding out seconds from death. 

As the ER nurse, one of your primary responsibilities is triaging patients. 

By triaging patients you’re deciding based on symptoms and health history which patients are more critical and should be seen first before the others (source).

Triaging is a very important consideration when answering the question “should new grad nurses work in the ER?” and I’ll get to that shortly. 

Related Article: What is ER Nursing?

Can a New Grad Nurse Get a Job in the Emergency Room? 

Yes, recently graduated nurses can get a job in the ER. 

I went to nursing school with several classmates who got an emergency room nursing job right out of nursing school. 

The next two questions are where things get interesting. 

How Easy is it for New Nurses to Get a Job in the ER? 

It can be very hard as a new nurse to get a job in the ER. 

Depending on the area it can be nearly impossible for a lot of the reasons we’re going to mention below. 

Should You Get a Job in the ER as a New Nurse?

There are many older nurses who would say “no you shouldn’t,” and that you should do med-surg first.

I don’t think it’s that clear cut because as I mention in the article “Do You Have to Work Your First Year in Med-Surg as a New Nurse?

You shouldn’t pigeon hole yourself if you have a clear plan of what you want to do.

With that said working in the ER is not for everyone and only you can really answer that question. 

Because honestly, not every new nurse (or experienced nurse for that matter) will be cut out for working the ER, and that’s OK. 

We all have our own strengths and weakness and we should all embrace that.

It doesn’t mean you can never work in the ER it just means you might have to get experience in another nursing specialty beforehand.

Pro Tip:
The beauty of nursing is that there are so many different areas you can work in.

If you’re looking for a less stressful nursing job, a non-bedside nursing job or a job ideal for a nurse mom it can be found.

Why is it so Hard to Get an ER Job as a New Nurse? 

A lot of what I’m going to list is going to center around just a lack of experience and not knowing what you don’t know. 

1. You’re Triaging Patients

Remember when I talked about triaging earlier?

Well, this is a big part of why there’s push back when it comes to new nurses working in the ER. 

Triaging requires a lot of nursing skills and nursing judgment something many new nurses are going to struggle with.

2. You Get a Little Bit of Everything

In many ERs you’re going to get:

  • OB patients
  • Mental health patients
  • Pediatrics

Just to name a few. 

All of which may be overwhelming for a new nurse. Plus it can be very hard and overwhelming for a nurse with little to no experience to deal with so much variety in acute patients. 

How Do You Increase Your Chances of Getting Hired as a New ER Nurse?

There are several ways you can increase your chances of getting hired and for the most part, they involve a form of networking.

1. Get a job as an ER tech.

Getting a job as an ER tech is a good way to get experience in the ER. 

You can start to see how you like the flow of the ER while also padding your resume to show you’ve had some experience in an ER environment. 

If that’s the route you want to go you can search for ER tech positions near you on the nursing job board.

Pro Tip:
You should try to get the ER tech position at the ER department you want to work for.

Some ERs are known for only hiring new nurses who’ve worked for them as an ER tech.

You can check out some ER tech positions in your area here. 

2. Join a professional nursing organization.

There are organizations you can join in school that could get you some leads and connections to your dream ER position. 

For starters see if your school has a chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA).

3. Talk to your nursing instructors.

I don’t think this option is utilized enough. 

If you want to work in the ER try talking to some of your faculty members to see if they have any connections that could help you.

Pro Tip:
Talking to your nursing instructors primarily works if you’re a model student who has shown to be a hard worker and the potential to be a great nurse.

What If You Don’t Get That ER Position

  1. First of all, remember it doesn’t make you a failure. It just means you might have to take a detour. 
  2. Look at other nursing positions. You should always have a backup plan. So make sure you’re pursuing other positions as well.

Honestly, if you don’t get the ER position you never know you just might really like your back up plan. 

To give you an idea of some other nursing positions new nurses should consider here are some options.

Related Article: The 5 Must-Have Nursing Skills to Survive in the ER

Good New Nurse Specialities to Consider

Some of these are specialty nursing positions that can also be challenging to get into also. 

1. Med-Surg Nursing

Talking about medical-surgical nursing.

Honestly, it’s med-surg.

I don’t really think it needs any explaining.

See job postings of new med surg nurse positions on the job board. 

2. The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse

A day in the life of an ICU nurse.

This was one of the areas where I first started out in nursing.

In the ICU nurses deal with all sorts of different illnesses. 

The variety can range from neurological issues to cardiac-related issues. 

While your patient problems could vary significantly they do have something in common. These are probably some of the sickest patients in a hospital. 

One of the nice things about the ICU is that there are ample opportunities to learn new things each day. 

Take note. 

The ICU (similar to the ER) is not for the faint of heart as a nurse’s decision can be the difference between life and death. 

This is a dream position for many new nurses, but it can be competitive to get a job as a new grad. 

To give you a leg up try getting a leadership clinical in the ICU. Or getting a job as an ICU tech. 

See job postings for new ICU nurses in your area.

3. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse 

This is looking at a layout of a specific hospital, but it does give you an idea of what it’s like in a NICU.

A neonatal nurse is a nurse that works in the NICU. 

A way to think about NICU nursing is everything I mentioned above except you’re dealing with newborns that are born premature or dealing with medical complications. 

It’s important to mention that breaking into this specialty is hard. 

Very hard. 

As a new grad nurse, it’s going to be that much more challenging. 

If you can get a senior year clinical in the NICU it will make it easier. 

See job postings for new NICU nurses in your area.

4. Labor & Delivery (L & D) Nurse

A labor and delivery nurse talking about what L & D nurses do.

The primary objective of a labor and delivery nurse is to help women during the laboring and childbirth process.

As a labor delivery nurse, you’re responsible for monitoring the baby and the mother. 

You’ll be acting as a coach for the moms not to mention support for the parents after the baby is born. 

Some of your responsibilities can range from: 

  • Educating new parents
  • Monitoring
  • Reporting
  • Assisting new moms to learn how to breastfeed

Most labor and delivery nurses I’ve met love their job and repeatedly say they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

See job postings for new labor and delivery nurses in your area.

Final Thoughts

I hope none of this comes off as you’ll never get a job in the emergency room because you’re a new nurse. 

What I am saying is that for a new nurse to get into a specialty position like ER nursing straight out of nursing school will require them to be proactive. 

But it can be done.

Let us know what you’re thoughts are in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of nurse works in the ER?

The kind of nurse that works in the er is a nurse that can remail cool and calm under pressure and is dedicated to being a life long learner.

Is being an ER nurse stressful?

Yes, being an ER nurse can be physically, mentally and emotionally stressful.

How do you become an ER nurse?

To become an ER nurse you will need to get into and pass nursing school. Afterwards you will need to pass boards (NCLEX-RN) to be eligible to work in the ER as a nurse.

To find out more info see the article “How to Become an Emergency Room Nurse.”

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