National Emergency Nurses Week: A day in the life of an emergency nurse

NursingOctober 01, 2020

October 11th through 17th is National Emergency Nurses Week, and if nurses ever needed a week to honor them it’s during 2020. This year, emergency nurses stepped up even more than they normally do to address crowded emergency rooms and to care for patients and families who were dealing with the stress of the pandemic. 

One of the challenges of being an emergency nurse is that, as you would expect, every day is filled with emergencies. Nurses must expect the unexpected and have the ability to stay calm in the midst of a crisis. If you’re considering becoming a nurse, you may have wondered what it’s like to work in the fast-paced environment of an emergency room. While an average day is far from average, this is what you might encounter as an emergency nurse. 

Task Assignments 

Emergency nurses are often assigned to a specific task or unit for the day, such as triage, trauma, or minor emergencies. For example, the triage nurse will act as the ER’s gatekeeper, meeting incoming patients and determining their next steps. 

Patient and Physician Communication

ER nurses are an integral part of the healthcare team and can be the first point of contact for patients. They must be able to gather information that may be needed for a diagnosis, and they will likely need to relay this information to the rest of the healthcare team, including physicians. In addition, nurses may be asked to relay information to the patient’s family. As a result, nurses must be good communicators since they will be talking to a lot of people throughout their shift. They need to know how to ask questions effectively and how to listen for answers as well as watch for clues on what a patient may not say. 


The pace of an emergency room can vary, and there may be downtime after patients are moved from ER rooms to other parts of the hospital or are sent home. When it’s quiet, nurses may help restock supplies or prepare the unit for the next patients. They will also review reports and paperwork on the patients who were admitted or discharged. 

Shift Length

Nurses usually work 12-hour shifts. In the ER, however, there’s no guarantee that you’ll leave when your 12 hours are over. As is the case with emergencies, you may not be able to exit from a situation just because you shift is over. But, since the ER is often a fast-paced environment, the shifts can feel like they fly by, especially if the hospital has a high inflow of patients needing care.

If the excitement of the ER sounds like something you’d like to pursue, a Fortis nursing education can help you get started on that path. Click here for more information or call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career counselors.