What Does an ER Nurse Do?

Some of the first people you see when entering a hospital emergency room are the nurses. When you are experiencing trauma or injury, your ER nurse is trained to recognize life-threatening situations and to solve them. Their job is multi-faceted and requires such skills as quick thinking, communication, extensive knowledge of medical procedures and compassion.

Patient Care

According to Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, an emergency room nurse works in an environment where she must be professional, efficient, caring and quick. She sees patients with more minor situations, such as sore throats, all the way up to patients who are experiencing heart attacks or are on the brink of death. ER nurses must administer treatment to people of all ages and situations by applying specific medical knowledge. You find emergency nurses in hospitals, ambulances, helicopters, triage, poison control centers, the military, urgent care facilities, government, sports facilities, cruise ships and many other places.

A Day in the Life

Nurses who work in ERs often begin by assessing patient’s needs based on the extent of their injury or illness. For instance, she begins by checking for vital signs. If the patient is in need of fluids, medications or blood products, the ER nurse must find a vein with which to insert an IV. One of the ER nurses needs to mark down what is happening, for example, what trauma the patient has gone through, and chart it on the appropriate paperwork. If the patient needs to be intubated in order to breath properly, the ER nurse finds the appropriate medications and equipment for that. She must work as part of a team with the other personnel in the ER to help save patients’ lives on a daily basis.

Educators and Leaders

Not only will you find ER nurses in direct care situations, they are also responsible for educating the public on certain health-related topics. These include programs to improve wellness, prevent injuries and make the public aware of medical issues. Some of these include preventing or recovering from alcohol or drug abuse, instructing parents on how to keep their children safe in the car, stopping domestic violence and making sure people are aware of gun safety.


Some nurses prefer to have a specific area of expertise. Specializations include pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatric care and ambulatory care. Oncology, urology, gastroenterology and neonatal care are included as well. Another area for specialization is to choose a specific injury area on which to focus. Certified emergency nurses have received certification from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nurses. This certification is up for renewal every four years to show that the nurse is up-to-date on the newest medical trends, medicines, procedures and issues.

The ER nurse’s job consists not only of being aware and available in emergency situations but also being able to teach, research, continue learning and understand all aspects of the human body. While she is not paid as a doctor is, she is just as vital in the medical field.