Nurses are lauded for their calm and focused manner when everything around them is erupting, but emergency nurses bring this laser focus to their jobs every day. Emergency Nurses Week (October 9-15) calls attention to this specialty as a career and to express gratitude for nurses working in emergency departments nationwide.

Emergency nursing is, by design, performed quickly and carefully to help patients who may be experiencing a life-threatening trauma or even those who visit the emergency department for a routine health issue. Nurses who work in this environment need rapid-fire assessment skills to help prioritize critical cases, particularly those where an obvious cause of the issue isn’t present. This particular work may not be something every nurse enjoys or thrives in, but for those who do, it’s particularly satisfying.

Emergency nurses work within a specialty, but that specialty encompasses nearly every possible area of nursing. Because anyone can come to the emergency department with virtually any symptom, and they depend on the medical team to treat even symptoms that are vague, emergency nurses have to know about many conditions, symptoms, medications, and injuries. They might, in a typical day, treat an infant or a 90-year-old, see multiple victims of a car crash or a worker who fell from a ladder, encounter someone with pregnancy complications or a person having an undetermined medication reaction. Emergency nurses frequently help patients who are in a psychiatric crisis as well. And many patients who come to the emergency department are stressed and agitated so emergency nurses must develop an approach toward patients that is both compassionate and in control.

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If that sounds like an appealing challenge, then emergency nursing might be a terrific career path. After academic preparation, emergency nurses should gain myriad skills by working on different units. They should try to work with patients of all ages and with different health conditions to build a good foundation of skills from which to draw when needed in any given situation. Talk with emergency nurses to ask questions and look into the Emergency Nurses Association for resources about this field.

Gaining more experience will be a benefit–both because it helps nurses decide if this career path fits their interests and skills and because it will build the skills they need to help others. They will need to know how to treat catastrophic injuries or a heart attack one day and a person experiencing intense pain with no apparent cause the next, so an emergency nurse’s critical thinking skills must be sharp as they will need to triage patients constantly and in accordance with changing conditions.

After being in the field, gaining emergency nursing certification through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing will equip you with the additional knowledge needed to be a leader in emergency nursing. Although it is recommended that nurses who sit for the certification exam have two years of emergency nursing experience, it’s not a requirement; however, experience boosts your ability to pass and score well on the exam. And be sure to take the practice exams online as part of your study and preparation schedule as it will help you become familiar with the process and the types of questions.

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And if you’re already an emergency nurse who is helping patients every day, thank you for all you do! Take some time this week to reflect on the people you help and the lives you have touched–and even how each of those people have touched your life as well.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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