What Does an Emergency Nurse Do? (Duties and Requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 6 December 2022

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as an emergency (ER) nurse can be an exciting and fast-paced job. An emergency nurse holds many responsibilities and helps people in urgent situations. Learning about what emergency nurses do can help you decide if you want to pursue this career. In this article, we discuss the role and typical responsibilities of an emergency nurse and show you how to start a career in that field.

Related: What Does a Nurse Do? (Including Steps to Become One)

What does an emergency nurse do?

The daily tasks performed by an emergency nurse can vary depending on the type of work environment, as nurses may have different roles. An emergency nurse is a nurse who works in any type of emergency setting. Emergency nurses address urgent patient matters. The role of an emergency nurse can at times overlap the same responsibilities as a standard nursing position, though some companies may require other special skills.

Typically, patients arrive with a variety of health conditions, some being mild and others more severe. In some cases, health practitioners assess the patient's condition and minimise pain while they may not have access to the patient's history.

Related: 10 Common Nursing Skills: Definitions and Examples

Job responsibilities of emergency nurses

While an emergency nurse upholds several different responsibilities that can change depending on certain factors, like work volume, some of the most common are:

  • working closely with other nurses and doctors in urgent situations

  • accurately assessing the patient's condition and prioritising care

  • reviewing medical histories

  • executing treatment plans

  • helping to run diagnostics and testing

  • familiarity with advanced medical procedures or equipment

  • cleaning and dressing wounds

  • administering medications

  • monitoring patients and preparing them for discharge

Related: How To Become a Medical Coder

Who does an emergency nurse help?

A typical day for an emergency nurse can be unpredictable, and a patient may arrive for any number of different reasons. Emergency patients come in because of either internal or external ailments. This could mean a mysterious chest pain or an open, visible wound.

The work volume varies largely and may change throughout the day. There may only be one patient or multiple patients waiting in a queue for help. At this stage, it's extremely important to assess each patient's issue and pain level to determine who requires help first. Some common reasons patients might visit an emergency room are:

  • chest pain

  • abdominal pain

  • aching teeth

  • bone and ligament issues

  • respiratory concerns

Read more: What You Need to Know About Nursing Careers in Singapore

Work environment and salary of emergency nurses

Emergencies can happen in several different settings. An emergency nurse means working within an urgent care environment, which is usually in the hospital but also in various other places. Other examples of where an emergency nurse may work include burn centres, prisons, search-and-rescue teams, military branches or critical care centres. At times, an emergency nurse may even work during a short term engagement, such as a major sporting event or live concert. Emergency nurses may work on a contractual basis, or work either full or part-time within a specific medical facility.

Because of the volume of patients, an emergency nurse salary is at times higher than a standard nursing position. The national average salary of an emergency nurse is $3,004 per month.

Related: How to Write a Home Health Nurse Resume in 9 Steps

Soft skills of emergency nurses

A person who can work fast and in a high-pressure environment could be an ideal candidate for the role of an emergency nurse. While the role of an emergency nurse requires hard skills, such as technical knowledge, soft skills, can be equally important. Soft skills pertain to personality traits and demeanour. Some important soft skills nurses use to complete their daily tasks include the following:

  • Ability to work under pressure: An emergency nurse may be assisting multiple patients at once, so being able to stay calm is pertinent.

  • Ability to think quickly: Some patients may require extremely urgent care, therefore the emergency nurse may assess treatment and move at a fast pace.

  • Ability to work as a team player: A fast-paced environment may affect other nurses and doctors, so it's essential that the ER nurse can effectively work alongside others.

  • Ability to effectively communicate: The emergency nurse might relay information to other nurses, doctors and patients accurately and calmly.

  • Ability to have a good bedside manner: The emergency nurse might communicate directly with patients. Relating to the way a health professional communicates to patients, having empathy and assisting the patient in staying calm can be helpful traits as well.

  • Ability to stay flexible: Sometimes a typical work shift for an ER nurse can be erratic. Circumstances can shift quickly, which requires them to be flexible.

  • Ability to stay confident: A responsibility of the emergency nurse is to assess the patient's condition and administer treatment, so a high level of confidence is important.

  • Ability to learn: No matter what stage they are in their career, an emergency nurse has the opportunity to learn something new. Every year, new technologies and procedures enter the medical practice, so an ER nurse learns these.

Related: 14 Top Tips for Night Shift Nurses (With Definition)

How to become an emergency room nurse

If you're interested in becoming an emergency nurse, you may follow these steps:

1. Get your degree in nursing

As most other nursing roles start, a four-year education in nursing is typically required. Your degree most likely also includes clinical rotations, nursing research and theoretical studies. Degrees obtained outside of Singapore may be acceptable in many medical facilities as long as they have the necessary accreditations.

Related: A Comprehensive Guide to Taking a CNA Skills Test

2. Take the Nursing Board exam

It's a requirement for all new nurses to take the Singapore Nursing Board exam before they're legally able to begin work. The Singapore Nursing Board (SNB) conducts three standardised tests. The SNB Registered Nurse (RN) test is usually the one applicable to emergency nurses and it's the last step before obtaining your nursing licence.

3. Look into additional courses

After you're legally able to work as an emergency nurse, additional courses can supplement your career. Many emergency nurses take additional training courses, such as Advanced Trauma Life Support training. These are additional licences that, while not always necessary to find employment, may be appealing to some employers.

Related: 9 Flight Nurse Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

4. Prepare for your interview

After you submit your application to potential employers, the next step is planning for the interview. You can update your resume with your education and credentials, then prepare for potential interview questions. Interviews may vary depending on the medical facility, so researching the company beforehand can be beneficial.

Related: 8 Nursing Interview Question Examples (With Sample Answers)

4 professions similar to an emergency room nurse

Working in an emergency setting is not the only option for a prospective nurse. Read below for other roles similar to an emergency nurse:

1. Charge nurse

National average salary: $2,959 per month

Primary duties: A charge nurse typically works either in a hospital or a long-term care facility. A charge nurse can also work inside of a private practice. This role also requires some similar skill sets, such as the ability to conduct patient assessments, administer treatment and work in a fast-paced environment.

2. Registered nurse (RN)

National average salary: $3,343 per month

Primary duties: Registered nurses typically work in a hospital or medical clinic setting, but they can also work in a facility such as an outpatient, rehabilitation or senior centre. On occasion, an RN may also travel for work, sometimes also to visit patients at their homes. The responsibilities of a registered nurse may vary depending on the medical environment.

3. Nurse clinician

National average salary: $5,783 per month

Primary duties: A nurse clinician may work in a larger hospital setting or a small, private practice. This role usually requires familiarity with preparing and reading patient charts. Depending on the employer, this role may also require some administrative duties, such as coordinating appointments, taking inbound calls or handling insurance matters.

4. Paramedic

National average salary: $2,958 per month

Primary duties: Paramedics are medical professionals who are typically the first to respond in an emergency situation. This role requires the individual to think and act quickly in urgent situations, but also be able to travel to patients in need. They're usually on the go, either working inside of an ambulance or other emergency response vehicle and might lift patients onto a gurney, making this role both mentally and physically demanding.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles