Trauma Nurse

What Is a Trauma Nurse?

Trauma nurses, also known as emergency nurses, are nursing professionals who specialize in caring for patients who have suffered from an acute injury or illness and who may be in critical condition. These nurses can be found working in emergency rooms, intensive care units (ICUs), and trauma centers. They deal with trauma cases including motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, head injuries, and injuries from assault.

What Are Some Trauma Nurse Duties?

  • Performing wound care
  • Stabilizing patients who are in critical condition
  • Triaging patients accordingly to acuity
  • Setting up and administering IVs
  • Taking patient vitals
  • Working alongside law enforcement in trauma cases that have resulted from criminal behavior
  • Taking blood samples
  • Maintaining close lines of communication with physicians and other staff
  • Recognizing the signs and symptoms of clinically unstable patients who are deteriorating
  • Maintaining appropriate medical supplies and equipment
  • Administering basic life support, CPR, and first aid as needed
  • Reporting cases of neglect or abuse to child protective services (CPS) if needed
  • Maintaining rigorous patient care documentation
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families or loved ones
  • Administering emergency medications like those that are to be given during a ‘code blue'

Where Do Trauma Nurses Work?

Trauma nurses work wherever patients with critical conditions are treated. Common workplace environments include:

  • Hospitals (emergency rooms, ICUs, surgery units, etc.)
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • State prisons
  • County jails
  • Private urgent care facilities

How to Become a Trauma Nurse

Trauma nurses must deal with life-and-death situations regularly, and therefore hold a large amount of responsibility. Becoming a trauma nurse will take a mixture of nursing education, clinical experience, and the desire to enter the fast-paced, sometimes stressful world of caring for trauma patients. Many trauma nurses get a sense of fulfillment and pride from caring for these critical patients.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

Like many jobs, those with higher degrees generally have more opportunities for career advancement. Trauma nurses, at the very least, should have earned their associate's degree in nursing (ADN). However, those who have earned their Bachelor's in Nursing Science (BSN) will find themselves more desirable to potential employers. After becoming licensed as an RN, nurses will need to gain some experience in the field of emergency nursing and enroll in a certain number of hours of continuing education in trauma nursing before they are awarded a certification as a Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN).

Do Trauma Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Like other nursing specialties inside of the United States, trauma nurses must first become licensed as registered nurses (RNs) before they're certified in critical care as trauma nurses. Due to the fast-paced and critical nature of this specialty, a BSN or higher may be required or preferred.

Step 2: Required Trauma Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Common credentials and/or certifications of a trauma nurse include:

  • ADN or BSN degree
  • Basic Life Support Certification (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certification (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification (PALS)
  • Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN) - valid for four years

Additional certifications and training courses for trauma nurses:

  • Certified Emergency Nurse certificate (CEN)
  • Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC)
  • Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC)

For more information on the certification process for Trauma Certified Registered Nurses (TCRN) through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN), visit the BCEN website.

Trauma Nurses Jobs, Salary & Employment

Because it takes a unique set of skills to be a successful trauma nurse, most TCRNs will not have any difficulty finding employment in the field.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Expert knowledge of emergency medicine and critical care concepts across all ages, strong command of triage and time management, ability to remain calm in a high-stress, high-stakes environment, ability to think quickly and critically, team player, strong organizational skills, motivated, exceptional leadership abilities, attention to detail, emotional stability, strong interpersonal and communication abilities, and flexibility
  • Job Outlook - The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has suggested that employment growth for registered nurses is will rise by 16% between 2014 and 2024. Employment growth for Trauma Certified Registered Nurses (TCRNs) is expected to be in-line with this figure.

What Is the Average Salary of a Trauma Nurse?

As reported by PayScale, trauma nurses earn annual salaries of around $63,575 depending on the specific organization that they work for. Salaries will vary widely and will depend on whether the trauma nurse works as a staff nurse, nurse manager, nurse supervisor, or emergency room director. Other factors which determine how much a TCRN makes is the city or state that they're working in and the degrees and certifications that they hold. The benefits that TCRNs will receive will also depend on their employer. Most TCRNs who are employed full-time will receive comprehensive medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance coverage along with some paid time off each year.

How Much Do Trauma Nurses Make per Year?

  • $43,000 – $90,000 annually

How Much Do Trauma Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $29.34 average hourly wage

Trauma Nurse Resources