Trauma nurses admit and treat patients who are entering emergency units, or who are in need of emergency assistance. They are trained to work quickly and efficiently with little time to spare, which can make this career path both stressful and rewarding. Some trauma nurses may choose to work through an emergency unit, or an ambulance team alongside paramedics, while others may be appointed to trauma or critical care units in a hospital setting.
The Different Education Pathways
To become a trauma nurse, one of the following forms of education must be completed:
- Diploma: Diplomas are rarely allowed for this specialized field of nursing, although some states may recognize a three year hospital training program diploma for licensure purposes.
- Associate Degree: An associate’s degree in Nursing can be completed in two years through many colleges and universities across the United States, and while it’s not the number one form of training for a nursing degree, it is the fastest path to take, especially in a specialized form of nursing like trauma, where there is additional training and certification required.
- Undergraduate Degree: An undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Science in nursing is one of the most popular degrees and well-recognized methods of accredited nurse training and can be earned through a university setting. This is a four-year program, and includes courses in anatomy, microbiology, psychology, and many other general nursing classes. Following graduation from this program, one must gain an additional two years of training in the specialized area of trauma and emergency care before they can work as a trauma nurse. Additional certification outside of the NCLEX-RN licensure is also required.
- Graduate Degree: A Master of Science in nursing degree can be completed in an additional two to three years following the completion of a Baccalaureate degree. This program often includes a project or thesis essay that must be completed during the course. A master’s degree in the field of nursing can sometimes be completed through both online and in-class learning and covers a multitude of subjects; sometimes even those affiliated with trauma nursing in particular are included.
- Doctorate Degree: A Doctorate degree can be gained through a DNP degree program. This program may be entered and completed following graduation from a master’s level academic degree, and includes online or in-class learning that can last one to two years depending on the intensity of training and time spent in study.
Trauma nursing is not something that can be completely learned through an online setting due to the intensity of the practical hands-on experience that must be gained. But some of the theory work in a Master or Doctorate degree may be completed through online studies.
Trauma nurses, like all nurses in the United States, must pass the national licensure examination, or NCLEX-RN to be certified as a registered nurse before specializing. Following this licensure, registered nurses must work for a minimum of two years within the field of trauma or emergency nursing to gain confidence and experience in their field before they can take the examinations for certification in this nursing niche. The Emergency Nursing Certification through the BCEN or Board of Certification for Emergency Nurses, and a Trauma Nursing Course must be earned in order to move forward in the trauma unit.
Prerequisites for Study
Registered nurses (RN’s) and their specialized fields require a minimum high school diploma and a GPA of 2.0 or higher in order to continue in the field of nursing. The post-secondary institution that you choose to attend, as well as the program being completed may demand a higher GPA, with many requiring 3.0 or higher.
The United States Department of Education, the Accreditation Commission for the Education of Nurses, or ACEN, as well as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing or AACN, are good sources to discover if your school or program of choice is accredited within your state or the United States. All nursing programs must be accredited in order to to considered as valid for eligibility.
Getting Certified as a Trauma Nurse
Trauma nurses, like all nurses in the United States, must pass the national licensure examination, or NCLEX-RN to be certified as a registered nurse before specializing. Following this licensure, registered nurses must work for a minimum of two years within the field of trauma or emergency nursing to gain confidence and experience in their field before they can write the examinations for certification in this nursing niche. The Emergency Nursing Certification through the BCEN or Board of Certification for Emergency Nurses, and a Trauma Nursing Course must be earned in order to move forward in the trauma unit. Certification for the NCLEX examination is determined through a number of categories which are chosen nationally, including:
- 1. Caring for patients in a safe environment.
- 2. Displaying psychological integrity through the ability to change and adapt.
- 3. Preventing injury and sickness.
- 4. Using physiological integrity to create comfort and physical wellbeing.
The Cost of Becoming a Trauma Nurse
Tuition fees vary by school, degree program, and state for nurses studying the field of trauma. Most tuition amounts can be located directly through your school of choice. Financial assistance can be gained through many avenues such as loans, grants and scholarships.
Scholarships for Trauma Nurses
One scholarship that trauma nurses can apply for is the Emergency Nurses Association Foundation Scholarship, which awards twenty-five scholarships annually to undergraduate and doctoral nursing students in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.
Working as a Trauma Nurse
Trauma nurses work with a variety of patients in a fast-paced and high-stress setting as they are admitted to emergency or trauma units. Some trauma nurses may work in a critical care or perioperative position, while others will work in emergency rooms or through ambulances and other mobile or outpatient emergency care facilities.
- Training and Care: Trauma nurses are specially trained in life saving techniques and skills that are to be used during emergency situations. CPR, the use of a defibrillator and other specialized equipment is important and often crucial for nurses in this department. Learning the ability to stabilize a patient and deal with the pressure of fast blood loss, heart problems, and intensive wounds is normal procedure for a trauma nurse.
- Job Outlook: The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists trauma nursing under the area of registered nurses, which means that it has a job outlook of a 19% growth rate by the year 2022. This is a faster than average growth rate among the field of medicine and in many industries across the United States.
- Rate of Pay: According to Education Portal, trauma nurses have the ability to earn $65,470 annually, although this is a median salary reported from 2012 for registered nurses, rather than the niche of trauma nurses. Nurses have the ability to earn higher wages and more responsibilities through additional training, certification and experience.