5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being an ER Nurse


Those who watch a lot of movies and television shows may think that working as an emergency room nurse is a glamorous and even exciting job. They picture nurses working to save the lives of patients every day and imagine those nurses watches as a flood of patients come through the hospital’s doors. While working as an ER nurse can be exciting, it’s often stressful and may be a little boring at times too.

It Can Be Boring

Not all emergency rooms are as busy as the next. Those located in rural areas or smaller towns may see only a few patients come in every night. Emergency rooms in larger cities may see more patients dealing with minor issues like sprained muscles or viruses than those who need life saving help. Though the job seems exciting on screen, it’s a little more boring than some might expect.

You Do Some Busy Work

Nurses go through years of training to learn how to work around patients, take their vital signs and do other tasks on the job. Though you might think that you’ll work with dozens of patients every night in the ER, many nurses find themselves doing more busy work. This is especially true in hospitals that cannot afford orderlies and support staff on overnight shifts. You might check in on patients once an hour or more often, remove dirty linens, restock rooms and do paperwork at the main desk.

Taking Histories and Signs

When a patient comes into the ER, nurses are the ones responsible for taking medical histories and vital signs. Your hospital may have nurses or clerks in the front who ask patients for a list of their symptoms, give them a band that identifies them and takes them to an exam room. ER nurses will then check vital signs, including the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. You may also take or verify their medical histories. Depending on the reason for the patient’s visit, you might check on them in the coming hours. A patient with diabetes may require multiple blood sugar checks during the night.

You Work with a Lot of Others

As an emergency room nurse, you will also spend a lot of time working with others. Most hospitals now require that those working overnight shifts work 12 hours at a time. Instead of working 40 hours a week, you’ll usually work 36 hours a week over the course of three days. This means that the people you work with may change from day to day, including orderlies, maintenance workers, doctors and even other nurses. As the crew constantly changes, it’s often hard to make friends and feel comfortable with those around you.

The Job is Stressful

One thing they don’t tell you about working as an ER nurse is that the job is incredibly stressful. Even if you work in a quieter facility, you may work with patients who do not survive the night and patients who pass away immediately after arriving in the ER. ER Nurses Blog, a blog devoted to the medical professionals working in emergency rooms, recommends that these nurses find outlets for their stress, including speaking with a therapist or psychologist to learn coping mechanisms.

Working as an ER nurse is a rewarding career, but it’s not one you can start right out of college. You usually need to gain some trauma experience and get your trauma certification too. Before spending a lot of time working up to the ER, take a look at some of the things they don’t tell you about being an emergency room nurse.