Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner Career Overview

NurseJournal Staff
Updated April 1, 2024
Emergency room nurse practitioners save lives. Learn what ERNPs do, typical salaries, and what the work is like to see if this career is for you.
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Nurses and doctor working together on a patient lying downCredit: Getty Images

Emergency room nurse practitioners (ERNPs) provide care to patients experiencing medical emergencies. This specialty typically pays a six-figure salary and provides the satisfaction of knowing that you can help save lives and treat serious injuries and conditions.

ERNPs usually see about 22 patients per day, making it a fast-paced career. If you enjoy working as part of a team and making a major difference, read on for more about ERNPs and their contributions.

job outlook

job outlook52% growth between 2020 and 2030United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

median annual salary

median annual salary$130,000American Association of Nurse Practitioners
msn or dnp required
np certification required
ernp a plus

Emergency room nurse practitioners must work effectively with other members of the emergency care team, including social workers and healthcare providers, and be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families. Because emotions run high in emergency rooms, ERNPs must remain calm under stress and demonstrate empathy.

Below lists some common responsibilities for ERNPs.

Key Responsibilities

  • Assess patients
  • Order tests
  • Diagnose conditions
  • Prescribe treatment in emergency departments
  • Educate patients
  • Supervise registered nurses (RNs) and other nursing staff
  • Collaborate with physicians, surgeons, and specialists

Career Traits

  • Ability to make good decisions under pressure
  • Stress management
  • Collaboration
  • Strong communication skills
male nurse talking to patient in emergency room

FS Productions / Tetra Images / Getty Images

Why Become an Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner

Work as an ERNP isn’t for everyone. Like other emergency responders, emergency room nurse practitioners deal with stressful situations, trauma, and people experiencing emotional crises. However, the satisfaction of making a difference and the financial rewards can make the position worth it.

Advantages to Becoming an Emergency Room NP

  • check-circleHigh demand
  • check-circleSix-figure salaries
  • check-circleSatisfaction of making a difference
  • check-circleCamaraderie and team spirit

Disadvantages to Becoming an Emergency Room NP

  • check-circleHigh scheduling demands and related stress
  • check-circleHigher risk of lawsuits than other specialties
  • check-circleFrustration dealing with non-emergencies
  • check-circlePotential for violence for agitated patients or family members
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How to Become an Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner

To become an ERNP, you must earn a graduate degree in nursing (either an MSN or a DNP), pass the board certification, and earn your state license as a nurse practitioner.

Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

You must earn either a four-year BSN or a two-year associate degree. The BSN takes longer, but it offers the most options for earning an MSN.

Pass the NCLEX exam to receive an RN license.

The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) is a multi-hour multiple-choice examination on nursing theory, practical nursing, communications, and legal and ethical aspects of nursing.

Earn an MSN degree.

Most full-time MSN programs prefer at least 1-2 years of experience as an RN. These two-year programs include advanced nursing topics and new topics, including diagnostics, pharmacology, and treatments.

Consider earning an MSN in family nurse practice (FNP). FNPs are preferred in the emergency room because of the diversity in ER patient ages.

Pass the certification exam.

The national board certification is another multihour multiple-choice examination.

Get NP state licensure.

State requirements vary, but all include passing the board certification, having a clear and unencumbered RN license, and completing a background check with fingerprinting.

Gain experience.

Working as an FNP and then working for two or more years in the ER can help with eligibility to apply for an ERNP certification course to get certification. Many hospitals prefer the extra certification.

How Much Do Emergency Room Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to the AANP, the median ERNP compensation is $130,000, including base salary, incentives, and bonuses. Salary.com reports that as of April 2022 the highest-paid 10% make $143,890 or more. While the BLS reports on NPs in general, rather than breaking out emergency room nurse practitioner job outlooks, it projects growth of 52% for NPs between 2020 and 2030.

FAQ: Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner

question-mark-circleWhat is an emergency room nurse practitioner?

Emergency room nurse practitioners have more training than RNs, but less than physicians. They are licensed to assess patients, order medical tests, diagnose conditions, and prescribe treatments.

In emergency rooms, they may focus on treating patients who need nonemergency care, or they may treat patients at all levels of need, depending on volume and staffing.

question-mark-circleHow long does it take to become an emergency room nurse practitioner?

It takes at least six years of education and typically at least two years of experience to become an emergency room nurse practitioner.

Most ERNPs have a BSN, which takes two years, practice nursing as RNs, and then earn a two-year MSN degree. (Most MSN programs require or at least strongly prefer at least 1-2 years of experience.)

question-mark-circleHow much do emergency room nurse practitioners make?

ERNPs make a median $130,000 in total compensation, according to the AANP. Emergency care is one of the higher-paying NP specialties, largely because of the higher stress levels, greater likelihood of being sued, and potential for burnout.

question-mark-circleWhat’s the difference between an ER nurse and ER nurse practitioner?

ERNPs are authorized to order medical tests, diagnose conditions, and prescribe treatments. They can prescribe medications, including controlled substances. RNs are not authorized to do any of these, but instead they carry out the medical testing and often administer the prescribed treatments.

Resources for Emergency Room Nurse Practitioners

  • American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners

    The American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners provides professional development, publishes a specialty journal, and codevelops the emergency nurse practitioner certification, in collaboration with the AANP certification board. It offers emergency room nurse practitioners ongoing education, including certification preparation courses, and a career board.
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners

    The AANP is the largest trade association for nurse practitioners in all specialty areas. It advocates for NPs on public policy, including scope of practice, funding for NP education, and multistate licensure. It also provides professional development activities, publishes journals and newsletters, and offers a career board.
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board

    The AANPBC is an independent affiliate of the AANP. It manages board certification for several NP specialties, including the emergency nurse practitioner certification. The multiple-choice certification examination covers all aspects of emergency care, including diagnosis, patient management, and legal and ethical aspects of care.
  • Emergency Nurse Association

    The Emergency Nurse Association is open to RNs and NPs. It offers ongoing professional development, including courses and conferences, publishes a journal and newsletter and other tools for emergency nurses, and provides member communities. Its Institute for Emergency Nursing Advanced Practice focuses on ERNP needs.
  • American Nurses Association

    The ANA is the largest nursing association in the world. It offers services for RNs and advanced practice nurses. Member services include professional development and education, advocacy for nurses at all levels, media campaigns and outreach to promote the value of nurses and nursing care, and networking opportunities.

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Page last reviewed April 17, 2022

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