ER nursing is one of the most exhilarating areas of expertise in the medical field. That being said, it takes a certain personality, not to mention adaptability.
While working as an RN in a doctor’s office or even in the ICU is pretty much predictable day to day, the shift of an ER nurse is always a big question mark.
If you think that emergency room nursing might be for you, then take a look at some of the primary advantages and disadvantages of the job. This will give you a better idea of what you can expect from this career.
Pros and Cons of ER Nursing
Pro #1: You’ll Get Lots of Experience Treating Patients
People with a variety of illnesses and conditions come through the emergency room doors.
As an ER nurse, it will be your job to triage these individuals, determining which ones have the most life-threatening injuries or problems. On the plus side, this will grant you a lot of insight and experience with all kinds of conditions.
On any given day, an ER nurse might have to treat patients with alcohol poisoning, severe burns, seizures, heart attack symptoms, and more.
This wide range of diseases and ailments means that every single day is a learning opportunity.
Yes, emergency room nurses already have the training and skills that they need to perform the job, but the hands-on experience is invaluable.
Con #1: The Action Rarely Stops
Sure, some people thrive off of a fast-paced environment and interacting with multiple people at the same time.
However, even for the most energetic and extroverted person, this can become tiresome. Nurses who work in calmer units such as pediatrics or oncology tend to have more downtime than ER nurses.
The thing about the emergency room is that it rarely ever slows down, and there isn’t a schedule or roster of patients who are going to be visiting each day.
Instead, every single shift brings with it something new and unknown. It can be exciting at first, but after a while, it can start to lead to nurse burnout.
Pro #2: Being an ER Nurse Is Super Rewarding
Most nurses would agree that their jobs are rewarding, but there’s something about ER nursing that takes this feeling up a notch.
It’s true that nurses are some of the most fearless and selfless people out there and their job is mentally and physically taxing, but they keep coming back every single shift.
They do it because it’s a job that grants them a deep feeling of satisfaction.
Even though the days are long and the patients can be irritable or tough to deal with, ER nurses know that they are improving someone’s quality of life and maybe even helping to save his or her life. That kind of achievement is something that stays with you.
Con #2: It Requires Extra Certifications
While being an ER nurse is extremely rewarding, it also doesn’t come easily. In order to become a nurse in the emergency department, you need to first obtain your nursing degree.
Becoming an RN in and of itself is a tough path, but after that, you will need to undergo more on-the-job training.
You might even think about picking up some extra certifications along the way, such as CPEN (Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse) or CTRN (Certified Transport Registered Nurse) (source).
Many ER nurses opt for a few of these kinds of credentials in order to better prepare for the job and to make themselves more competitive and attractive to employers.
Pro #3: You’ll Be Part of a Team
One of the great parts of working in the healthcare field is that you’re rarely working alone. It’s all about teamwork and collaborating in order to provide the best care for patients.
As an ER nurse, you will never feel as if you’re handling situations alone. Instead, you will have the support of your coworkers, including the other nurses, physicians, doctors, technicians, ambulance drivers, and surgeons.
It’s an entire team unit working to deliver expert care and speedy service to patients. That feeling of contributing to something larger than yourself is part of what makes the job so rewarding.
Con #3: The Stress Can Be Overwhelming
Having great colleagues will come in handy when dealing with the daily stresses of being an ER nurse.
The patients and situations that you see in the emergency room can take an emotional toll, and that kind of burden can be too much for some people to handle.
There are the cases of severe abdominal pain or headaches, but there are also circumstances in which people are abused, or children are deliberately hurt.
It’s not unusual for ER nurses to see patients who have attempted suicide or found themselves caught in the middle of a shoot-out or crossfire. Besides that, there are tough decisions to make in the ER.
While it doesn’t all fall on nurses’ shoulders, they play a role in helping physicians and doctors decide the best course of action. ER nursing requires keeping your cool and remaining calm for the sake of the patients and families.
Pro #4: There’s Less Paperwork and More Autonomy
If you dread doing paperwork and writing patient reports, then ER nursing will be a breath of fresh air. There really isn’t time to do things such as that, although you will be required to document each patient’s condition and status.
Still, nurses in other departments tend to handle a lot more documentation, and it can be a tedious part of the job. Working in the emergency department means less time behind a computer and more time on your feet taking care of patients.
Another advantage to ER nursing is that you tend to have more autonomy and a say in what a particular patient needs. At a location such as a doctor’s office, nurses are there to check vitals and maybe administer some shots or draw blood.
They don’t really work on coming up with a diagnosis or determining which scans or tests are needed. On the other hand, an ER nurse deals more with this side of things, especially since the emergency unit can get backed up and flooded with people very quickly.
Con #4: You See Everything… and Need to Take Care of it
With autonomy comes more responsibility, of course, and as an ER nurse, it will be up to you to take care of any unfinished business.
You will need to regularly check on your patients, restock supplies and medications, and make sure that you catch up with any patients who had to go off for scans or tests.
It’s a lot to manage, which is why being able to think quickly on your feet and adapt to the current situation is crucial. Nurses can’t waste time toying with different ideas or trying to find another nurse to ask for an opinion.
An ER nurse uses his or her knowledge, expertise, and training to find suitable solutions under time pressures. Is it stressful? Yes. Do some nurses burn out?
Yes. Yet, there are those who get a thrill from working under pressure and making real change in the lives of patients.
Just be aware that if you’re going into ER nursing, you better be prepared to spread your wings and fly because you’ll be on your own more than a typical RN would.
If you’re trying to learn more about ER nursing check out some of these other articles…
- What is ER Nursing?
- Tips for New ER Nurses
- How to Become an ER Nurse
- ER vs. OR Nursing
- Emergency Nurses Association
Also, let us know what you think below in the comments section.