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becoming a ER nurse?

how do I become an ER nurse

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Subject: Career question for you


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Michael’s Answer

Hi Heather,

Education is needed to be become an Emergency Room (ER) Nurse. An Associated Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is required for the profession. Also, one has to be licensed by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

As an ER Nurse, this position is very demanding. One will specialize in dealing with and treating patients who require immediate care due to a traumatic medical emergency. The worse medical cases will come through the Emergency Room (ER). Mental, emotional and physical limits will be tested from dealing with patients, doctors and other medical staff in the ER. Urgency drives the ER, especially when lives are at stake.

My Mother retired as a Registered Nurse (RN). But, she was a RN who looked after patients on the regular floors of the hospital. A floor RN still has a demanding position, but not as stressful as an ER Nurse. There are different avenues for Nurses to serve - ER, Pediatric, Floor, etc.

While in high school, one will need to focus on science and math classes to prepare for a nursing career. Physics, chemistry and biology will be the core science courses. For math, algebra, geometry and statistics will be needed. Both concentrations will enable you to focus and refine your analytical skills for research; complex problem solving; investigative and innovative critical thinking; attention to detail; etc.

Other skills that will need to be built upon center around team building, team work and communication. In any work culture, collaboration amongst team members, staff and partner departments occur on a daily basis. As a nurse, communication is essential and critical when dealing with patients, medical personnel and other hospital staff. A college course in public speaking and in English will help with one's communication and writing skills. While in high school, the debate team will provide the opportunity to sharpen communication skills which are backed with research and factual data and information.

A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nursing will concentrate more on math and science courses. This will be earned at a college or university for a duration of four years. Clinical experience is gained while in nursing school at a college or university. Physiology, psychology and anatomy are some additional college courses that are required for one to take to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

Here are the Top 10 Best Nursing Schools of 2023 per

- Duke University
- Georgetown University
- Johns Hopkins University
- New York University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Michigan
- University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
- University of Washington
- Emory University
- University of Maryland

U.S. News & World Report has additional college listings for the best schools for a Master Degree in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice:

When reviewing colleges and universities, it is best to check the following:

- In-State vs Out of State Tuition
- Internships
- Scholarships
- Career Placement upon graduation
- Course work and offered classes
- Post-Graduate Degrees - Master and Doctoral

Best wishes for your education and career path as a Emergency Room (ER) Nurse!
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John’s Answer

Hi Heather - If you are interested in becoming an ER nurse, you will obviously need to obtain your license by graduating from an accredited program - either a 2-year associate program or a 4-year bachelor program -and passing the nursing boards. Right now in the US, there is a tremendous shortage of staff in healthcare with nurses being one of the biggest areas of need.

In the past, becoming an ER nurse might have required a couple of years worth of experience on a medical/surgical unit to develop the ability to assess patients and perform a host of skills like IV placement, but in the current environment (and for the foreseeable future) many places will accept less experienced nurses or even new grads and opt to train them. The job can be difficult emotionally and physically, but it can also be rewarding and fun and bring you experiences that will push you to become a keen observer and skilled technician. The things you will get to see and be a part of can be thrilling and profound and can bring you anywhere from the depths of humanity to the heights of joy. It truly is a rollercoaster ride and some days you can visit both ends of the spectrum. Look around and keep applying. If one place says no, keep trying and look at other facilities. Turnover is high in this role and if you are really interested and persistent, then you will find a position.

Depending on your desire to complete a 4-year degree or start working sooner with a 2-year degree, you can decide what kind of program to attend. If costs is a concern, a 2-year program at a community college will cost much less, get you the same license, and once you start working , you can think about continuing and getting your BSN or another degree. I have a 2-year degree and I have spent years working in ER's, ICU's, Quality, and in management/leadership roles. If I had to do it again, I would still attend a 2 year program as I have known many co-workers who have large student loans that they regret taking. I was able to work part time and pay out of pocket for my degree and it has worked out to be a great decision. Again, depending on your goals, you should look at what your state offers for tuition assistance. Currently the State of Maine is offering all HS graduates 2 years of tuition free in any of our Community Colleges. Talk about an opportunity!

Best of luck in your pursuits.