ER Nurse  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotEmergency room (ER) nurses may be the first health-care professionals to treat a sick person. They typically do a diagnosis, start treatment and conduct various tests.

"Someone comes to the emergency room with dizziness. By asking a few pointed questions, I have to determine to the best of my ability if the origin could be the heart," says Deborah Willard. She is an ER nurse.

"This is called triage. You can bet that if you go to the ER with a sore finger, you may wind up waiting a long time. The sicker people are going to be seen first," says Willard. She also gives medications, starts intravenous units, draws blood and conducts electrocardiograms.

dotNursing has its hazards. There's a risk in dealing with infectious diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. Nurses must observe rigid guidelines to guard against dangers like radiation, sterilization chemicals and anesthetics. They also face back injury when moving patients, shocks from electrical equipment and hazards posed by compressed gases.

"But don't worry if you can't stand the sight of blood," says Willard. "Neither could I at first!"

dotWorking hours can vary significantly. Night and weekend work is common for ER nurses. So is being on call.

At a Glance

Treat patients who need emergency health care

  • You have to be really good at handling stress
  • Night and weekend work is common
  • Students must graduate from an accredited nursing school and pass a national licensing exam