An emergency room (ER) nurse assignment entails facing challenging situations and complex moral dilemmas. Aside from the judgment calls needed to ensure patients receive optimal care, you will encounter life-or-death situations.  

Being an ER nurse may be relatively easy for those who already have experienced it. However, it may be dreadful for nurses who will experience this for the first time. Despite that, like any other assignment, preparation is key for performing at your best.  

This article will present different aspects you need to be aware of before being assigned as an ER nurse. Veteran nurses can use this as a reminder, while newly registered nurses can use this as a one-stop guide. We aim to provide a deeper understanding that receiving a spot on the ER nursing team is not a daunting task but a privilege to experience. 

What is an ER Nurse? 

ER nurses specialize in critical care and are masters in the art of urgency. They know when a patient rushed to the ER will need minor sutures or major surgeries by assessing their current condition and conferring with their physicians.   

Compared with ICU nurses, emergency room nurses usually focus on providing short-term care. On the other hand, floor nurses understand how to perform long-term care for patients who have undergone surgery. They also discern other concerns that a fast-paced environment in the emergency room would not.  

If you want to be an ER nurse, here are the soft skills that will prove handy: 

1. Level-Headedness 

Patients in the ER can be irritated with their present situation. The whole environment can also sound too rowdy. Yet, it is still your duty to complete tasks with a calm mind to prevent aggravating problems. 

2. Alertness and Sound Judgment 

Resuscitation and other vital life support practices will sometimes be required. However, it can only be performed if your physician decides. As a nurse, you can help your doctor by doing a prompt and sound assessment of the patient’s situation. 

3. Coping Ability 

Not every patient rushed to the ER is guaranteed to be saved. Even with all procedures performed, all life has its end, and sometimes, you will be at their bedside when this happens. Remember that this is not your fault, and you must carry on to prevent such situations from happening again. 

4. Attentiveness 

You will be working with laboratory results and nursing charts throughout your shift. Thus, you are required to be a keen observer of even tiny details. One slip-up may lead to detrimental consequences. 

5. Organizational Skills 

Many things may be happening to different patients all at the same time. Keeping everything organized will come in handy because this will make your duty flow flawlessly. 

6. Excellent Written and Verbal Communication 

In the ER, you will work with doctors, patients, fellow nurses, and other medical professionals. You can help patients the most when you know how to communicate advice to help colleagues and ask for advice when you need it.  

What Do ER Nurses Do?  

Emergency room nurses are trained to recognize situations that need more urgent healthcare. While this may sound scary initially, remember that you also have senior nurses willing to help if you ask. With the ER being a fast-paced, high-pressure area, a calm and composed mind helps best if your goal is to treat patients accurately and urgently. 

Day in the Life of an ER Nurse 

Below, we describe what it’s like to be an ER nurse during their shifts. While institutional guidelines will still vary, most nurses do the following when caring for ER patients.  

  • Huddle with lead nurses and managers, receive endorsements from patient situations to states of different equipment and facilities within the department.   
  • With the help of present nurse report sheets, perform an initial assessment of current ER patients by knowing which patients need assessment first other than others.  
  • Create a to-do list for patients, from hooking IV antibiotics to performing breathing treatments. 

Depending on daily circumstances, patients can be rushed to the ER almost every hour. When beginning ER nursing assessments with newly admitted patients, the first thing to do is: 

  • Perform ABC procedures, if necessary.   
  • Alternatively, you can ask for the patient’s medical history and chief complaint.   
  • Next, assign a level of urgency for every incoming patient.   

Taking care of newly admitted and existing patients boils down to the next procedures you will perform until your shift ends.  

  • With your nurse report sheets, perform a primary and focused assessment for each patient but put in a secondary assessment whenever needed.  
  • Perform testing, from laboratory tests to radiology tests, etc.  
  • Once all results have been released, it is up to the emergency room physician to determine whether patients will be admitted, monitored, or discharged.  
  • Complete final vitals and list of endorsements before endorsing patient to new nurses. Do not forget to clean your workstation.  
  • Huddle with nurses entering their new shift and endorse properly. 

Keeping Track of Care with ER Reporting 

Trauma nurses and other ER nurses usually work with report sheets to present detailed patient information in an organized fashion. These sheets will be the core of their work – a record of procedures and a basis for whether current actions are correct and should be continued or not.  

Emergency nurse report sheets usually contain two things, the patient’s pertinent information and the plan of care.  

Pertinent information entails knowing the patient’s current situation and how your intervention could either help relieve the problem or add to it. For instance, the report sheet must include the patient’s history of allergic reactions, certain drug classifications, and how the drug should be administered. This way, you and other nurses can urgently contact the physician to find another medication.  

On the other hand, the plan of care consists of a set of steps for providing healthcare for the patient. It includes laboratory, imaging, and so on, and will then be the basis for whether a patient will be discharged or admitted. 

How To Prepare to Be an ER Nurse? 

Here are the steps you need to take if you plan to pursue a nursing career: 

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree. 

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will be your first step to reaching your goal. While enrolling in renowned nursing schools is a plus, your determination will still mold you eventually into a great nurse.   

2. Take the NCLEX-RN. 

After graduating, passing the National Council Licensure Examination [for] Registered Nurses (RN) should be your next goal. Once you do so, you will be rewarded with a license provided by the certification board. It will stand as proof that your knowledge is enough to perform practice in a clinical setting. 

3. Join emergency nurse practitioner programs.  

You can begin your practice in a hospital setting once you have obtained your license. Various organizations accept fresh graduates as ER nurses because while training is required, there is learning that you can only obtain by practicing your profession.  

You can continue to be competent by keeping abreast of the latest studies in the nursing field, such as the Journal of Emergency Nursing. However, you must still participate in different programs to become a certified emergency nurse. With this certification, you strengthen your knowledge and skills while you open doors to better opportunities. After all, years of experience and certifications can secure a slot for increased salaries with ER nurses. 

Are You Ready to Be an ER Nurse? 

It is essential to be well-prepared before taking an ER nurse assignment. That preparation involves a well-equipped mind, a healthy body, and a positive outlook on the job.   

There will be a learning curve. However, your previous studies and hard work will pay off once you see your daily job go from being difficult to being easier to manage.  

There is no shortcut to being a great ER nurse, but a big mind and a bigger heart will make nursing roles more bearable and enjoyable.   

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Skilled Nursing Care, Keep Calm and Survive Your First Code Blue or Rapid Response as a Nurse, Everything You Need to Know About Holistic Nursing Care


The nursing journey can feel burdensome if you are alone. However, with the right people, you can get even greater opportunities that you did not think were present.   

Do you want your next assignment to be more fruitful than the last? How about trying to be an international travel ER nurse? PRS Global can help you with your next assignment!  

With our healthcare staffing agency, we assure you that you will thrive as a person and professional. With PRS Global, the best healthcare organizations are within your reach. With us, you can reach your nursing dreams as conveniently as possible. Contact us today!