The ED is Right for ME!

Have you decided you want to take the leap into the rewarding specialty of emergency nursing? Great! 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? 

Given the current shortage of available nurses, 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 have the opportunity to work in an emergency setting right out of school, look for a hospital or medical facility that has a formal orientation or internship program in place, geared toward non-emergency nurses. Ideally, the program should include: 

  • a stable preceptor arrangement and a mixture of classroom, skills labs and preaccepted clinical time 
  • flexible orientation at 3-6 months minimum 
  • not being counted as part of the emergency department staffing numbers until your orientation is complete

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 including: 

  • critical care - will help you gain the knowledge and skills necessary for life and death resuscitation scenarios 
  • medical-surgical - will help you learn to prioritize activities and manage multiple patients simultaneously 
  • step-down or intermediate care unit -will give you an opportunity to firmly ground your nursing knowledge and skills and help you when you do get an emergency nursing position

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

  • Attend the following classes to gain the knowledge, skills and credentials that will make you a strong candidate for an ED position: 

    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (contact your local hospital for course availability) 

    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (Check with your local colleges or universities that might have courses relating to emergency nursing skills.)

  • Focus on developing the following skills: 

    • Assessment - rapid and focused 

    • Respiratory assessment, including ABGs and cardiac enzymes 

    • ECG and EKG interpretation 

    • IV access skills 

  • Join the Emergency Nurses Association to take advantage of the education, networking and advocacy resources designed with ED nurses in mind
  • Gain experience as a student working as an ED Tech, EMT, or CNA to grow skills needed for the ED

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

Once you get 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
  • When opportunities to learn something new come along, take them
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions - there's a wealth of knowledge to be gained from colleagues, ED managers and emergency physicians 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 Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) credential
  • Mentor someone yourself! There's no better way to fully learn and understand a subject than to teach it to someone else 
  • 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 member services team at with any questions. We can't wait to see what you will do!