ER Nurse Job Description

The ER Nurse provides professional nursing care to patients in a hospital Emergency Room. This includes coordinating incoming patients, assessing and examining patients and completing patient documentation. Because they work in Emergency Rooms, they need to assess patients more rapidly than Registered Nurses working in other settings, and they are often called upon to help stabilize patient conditions.

ER Nurses are Registered Nurses with experience working in emergency conditions and fast-paced environments. They work almost exclusively in Emergency Rooms supervised by ER Physicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field for registered nurses in general is expected to grow 16 percent over the next ten years, which is much faster than average.


ER Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

In order to deliver rapid patient care, an ER Nurse performs many different tasks. We analyzed job listings for ER Nurses in order to identify these core duties and responsibilities.

Perform Administrative Tasks

The ER Nurse is typically responsible for helping to coordinate incoming patients, prioritizing by deciding which patients need medical care most urgently and which patients can wait. They complete all patient documentation and continue to document the ongoing status of each patient throughout their stay. They record patient history, current condition and responses to treatment and medications in order to communicate this information to the physician.

Assess Patients

In order to coordinate incoming patients, the ER Nurse must quickly assess each patient’s condition and its severity. Once a patient is brought in to be seen, the ER Nurse then performs a more in-depth assessment, checking and recording the patient’s vitals, questioning the patient, and collecting patient data to be handed off to the appropriate physician. This process must be completed in a timely manner as the patients in the ER often need urgent medical attention.

Stabilize Patients

When a patient comes in in critical condition, the ER Nurse is often responsible for stabilizing that patient. The ER Nurse will often have to stabilize the patient with little to no information as the patient may be unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate. The ER Nurse coordinates with other medical staff such as physicians and EMS in order to complete this task.

Administer Medications

After assisting the physician in diagnosing the patient and developing a treatment plan, the ER Nurse will administer patient medications according to the plan. This includes administering oral and injectable medication, dressing and cleaning wounds, changing dressings and assessing patient reactions to administered medication.

Monitor Patients

Once the patient has been stabilized and treated, the ER Nurse must monitor that patient to ensure that they remain in stable condition and continue to improve. They will regularly check and record the patient’s vital statistics, report and changes in patient condition and monitor patient treatment and medications to ensure they’re being administered properly and the patient isn’t experiencing adverse reactions. They also monitor medical equipment to make sure it is functioning properly.


ER Nurse Skills

ER Nurses are highly professional individuals who are capable of prioritizing many different tasks, working under pressure in high-stress, fast-paced environments and thinking quickly in order to make rapid, assertive decisions. In order to delivery excellent patient care, they must be confident, decisive, knowledgeable and great communicators who work well in teams.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want ER Nurses with these core skills. If you want to work as an ER Nurse, focus on the following.

  • Obtaining a Registered Nurse license in appropriate state
  • Getting Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification
  • Having Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification
  • Demonstrating acute care experience
  • Obtaining Basic Life Support (BLS) certification
  • Showing basic computer skills

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your ER Nurse toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Trauma nursing core course completion
  • Emergency Nurse Certification (CEN)
  • Critical care or emergency room experience
  • Managing Assaultive Behavior (MAB) certification
  • Bilingual abilities

ER Nurse Resources

We searched the Web to find the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as an ER Nurse. From thought leaders to industry groups, this list is packed with opportunities to learn, connect and engage.

On the Web

BMJ Blog – An evidence-based nursing blog

John Hopkins School of Nursing Blog – Great nursing stories and study tips

ADVANCE Perspective – A nursing blog told from multiple perspectives

Industry Groups

American Medical Association – Largest association of medical professionals

American Nurses Association National organization of professional nurses

Emergency Nurses Association – Largest organization for emergency nurses

ER Nurse Books

Trail Guide to the Body – A comprehensive guide to locating muscles in the human body

Fast Facts for the ER Nurse – An orientation guide for ER Nurses

I Wasn’t Strong Like This Starting Out – True stories of people becoming nurses

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