Path to the ED – Emergency Nursing FAQs

Wondering whether to take the leap into the rewarding specialty of emergency nursing? Here are a few questions answered about how to land that job. 


Can I get a job in an emergency department as a new graduate?

Yes! Given the current nursing shortage, many emergency departments are hiring new nurses and training them in the skills needed for successful careers in the emergency department.

What if I do get an emergency nursing job as a new graduate?

If you can work in an emergency setting right out of school, look for a hospital or medical facility that has a formal residency program designed for the novice nurse. Ideally, the program should include:

  • A mixture of classroom, skills training, equipment training, simulation, and 1:1 precepting experiences.
  • Structured orientation with a 6-month minimum.
  • A supportive and safe learning environment.

Talk with human resources personnel or the emergency department manager to discuss an orientation program. If your prospective employer cannot offer this support to you as a new graduate, you should seriously consider whether you can make a successful transition into the emergency department.

What if I don't get an emergency nursing job as a new graduate?

Some emergency departments do not hire new graduates because the time-critical nature of emergency situations requires someone with a firm foundation of basic nursing skills. Working in another area of nursing for a year or two prior to specializing in emergency nursing can give you invaluable experience to help pave your path to emergency nursing.

This could include:

  • Critical Care - gain the knowledge and skills necessary for life and death resuscitation scenarios.
  • Medical-Surgical - learn to prioritize care and manage multiple patients simultaneously.
  • Step-Down or Intermediate Care Unit - firmly ground your nursing knowledge and skills, which will serve as a strong foundation when you secure a position in emergency nursing.

Are there steps I can take to help prepare me for an emergency nursing position?

Attend the Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support classes to gain the knowledge, skills and credentials that will make you a strong candidate for an ED position.

Focus on developing the following skills:

  • Assessment - rapid and focused
    • Respiratory, cardiac, and neurological assessment, including ABGs
  • ECG and 12-lead EKG interpretation
  • IV access skills

What can I do to optimize my chances for success after I'm in an emergency nursing position?

Once you obtain an emergency nursing position you should be proactive to grow in your new role. Some tips to help you succeed include:

  • Continue to take classes and fine-tune your skills.
  • Take opportunities to learn something new.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions – there’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from colleagues, ED managers and emergency providers on staff.
  • Get involved in unit-based committees and activities as well as local, state and national ENA activities.
  • Find a mentor to help you in your professional development in emergency nursing.
  • Set a two-year goal to obtain your Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or another credential.
  • Keep yourself challenged and look for new professional growth opportunities. 

ENA wants to help you #MakeitHappEN, no matter which specialty you choose. Please reach out to the Membership team at with any questions.