A trauma nurse is there to assess, diagnose and care for patients who arrive in the emergency room. The specialization for trauma nurses is to deal with those patients who have acute and immediate needs because they face urgent and often life-threatening situations. In many cases, these people present with unknown and undiagnosed illnesses and injuries. This means that trauma nurses work in highly stressful situations and are often responsible for the coordination of patient care. They work as part of a team made up of doctors, other nurses and the family members of the patients. The hours are long and often unsociable. Furthermore, they have to deal with horrific and often gory situations.
However, it is a faced-paced career and one where people truly feel as if they can make a difference in terms of saving lives.
About the Trauma Nurse Profession
Trauma nurses are registered nurses with a specialization in trauma, emergency and life care. This means that they must first become registered nurses, which is achieved through an associate’s degree (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) from a program that is fully accredited. This generally takes two to four years to complete, after which they must specialize in trauma or critical care. During their schooling, they will learn about health assessment, pharmacology and pathophysiology. Furthermore, they must undertake a lengthy practicum in order to complete their degree. Trauma nurses will also need to have a BCLS (basic cardiac life support) and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification.
After completing their BSN or ADN degree, prospective nurses have to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination in order to become registered nurses. It is only at that point that they can study towards the emergency room nursing certification. This is a special exam organized by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. For this certification, students will be tested on their handling of cardiac, respiratory or neurological emergency situations and procedures common to the emergency room. In most cases, a trauma nurse will choose a certain specialization, leading to further certification. Some of these areas include emergency care or injury prevention.
Most ADN and BSN degrees are completed in school. Further certification after the NCLEX-RN exam, however, can often be completed online or via distance learning. If this is something a student chooses, it is very important to ensure that the training is fully accredited by the relevant bodies. Furthermore, it is important to understand that many of these training programs require some hands-on, practical experience as well. Most training courses are offered through the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).
A number of courses are a prerequisite to becoming a trauma nurse. These include anatomy, physiology, health promotion, pharmacology, risk reductions and ethics. Furthermore, before becoming certified, nurses must have worked in emergency nursing for at least two years. A number of other courses are recommended.
- CPEN (certification in pediatric emergency)
- CFRN (flight)
- CEN (emergency)
- CTRN (critical care ground transport)
Once certified, students must be recertified every few years. This is achieved by proving they have partaken in continuous professional education. If this is not possible, then students will have to retake the examination itself.
What Jobs Does This Lead To?
Trauma nurses will work in situations where they can deal with direct trauma, including trauma units, emergency rooms and the military. Their role is to initially assess a patient, stabilize them and provide them with critical care. After this, they will assist other physicians during their procedures. Often, trauma nurses will work in an airplane, medical helicopter or ambulance and they will often be involved in removing a patient from a location of disaster to a hospital. As such, they are also often found in charities such as Doctors and Nurses without Borders and the Red Cross.
The overall nursing profession is becoming increasingly demanding, however. More and more patients present with complicated and complex challenges and require highly specialized care. This is why nurses with an advanced type of training are required. A trauma nurse must be ready to make careful interventions in stressful and chaotic situations, as an emergency can occur anywhere.
Once a patient arrives in any kind of situation, trauma nurses must be very quick in their responses. They are at the front line, assessing and triaging patients. This means they have to be able to remain calm and that they must be highly organized. They have to do things such as inserting IVs, intubating patients, administering medicine, monitoring vital signs, drawing blood and more. They will have to prepare their patients for diagnosis and surgery. Finally, they have to be able to cope with death, as not every patient who presents with an emergency will be able to walk out again at the end of the day.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that in terms of salary, nursing is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. This is particularly true in areas of the country where the population is aging. According to PayScale.com, the hourly wage for a trauma nurse is between $20.40 and $38.65. This equates to an annual wage of around $60,000. However, there is a great variation in salaries depending on where the nurse lives and which hospital or setting they work at. Furthermore, education and experience also play an important role. Some trauma nurses earn far less due to the fact that they work for charities.
Job Outlook for a Trauma Nurse
Trauma nurses with a BSN have better prospects in terms of employment in public and private settings than those with an ADN. Those who have studied on towards their master’s degree (MSN) have even better prospects, but they often no longer work on the front line of trauma nursing. Projected growth in the field of nursing by 2016 is 23%, which is well above other fields across the country.