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Trauma Nurse at a Glance

Trauma Nurses specialize in treating and diagnosing traumatic injuries or illnesses that put their patient’s bodies and lives at immediate risk of physical duress.
The word “trauma” refers to a disturbing or distressing experience. Because of the unpredictable and often critical nature of these cases, Trauma Nurses must have innately high-functioning processing skills in consistently challenging and chaotic situations. In addition to being able to emotionally and clinically handle each case, Trauma Nurses need to be proficient multitaskers, communicating with their colleagues as they work to stabilize their patient. If you’re looking for a fast-paced career in medicine where you’ll learn to assess and treat a wide variety of highly critical cases, then Trauma Nursing might be just the right path for you.
What is a Trauma Nurse?
A Trauma Nurse helps patients who are suffering from an acute injury or illness where the cause of injury is accidental, intentional, or unidentified. Typically working in an emergency department, Trauma Nurses are expected to be proactive workers and effective communicators, ready to receive and treat any patient brought in by emergency transport. Due to the fragility of critical patients, Trauma Nurses need to be proficient in a variety of advanced life support and medically stabilizing skills.

What’s the Demand for Trauma Nurses?

According to the CDC, injury is the leading cause of death between the ages of one to 44. These injuries can be accidental, like from a car crash, self-inflicted, or the result of acts of violence. Because of this they are constantly needed to provide lifesaving care to high-risk individuals.

How do you become a Trauma Nurse?

Before earning your certification as a Trauma Nurse, you must first earn an Associate’s (ADN) or Bachelor’s (BSN) in the Science of Nursing. After earning your degree and passing the NCLEX-RN, you’ll be required to complete two years, with an average of 1,000 dedicated practice hours, in Trauma Nursing. You’ll also need to complete 20-30 hours of trauma coursework to become certified in Basic and Advanced Life Support.
Though not required for the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse Exam, it’s highly recommended that Trauma Nurses take the courses and gain experience in pediatric emergency care, flight nursing, and critical care ground support. The more proficient you are in a range of trauma care practices, the better you’ll assess and treat each patient in your care.

Trauma and emergency departments require individuals with emotional stability, exceptional critical thinking and communication skills, and innate multitasking capabilities. As a Trauma Nurse, you can expect a career filled with challenging cases, fast-paced critical situations, and an evolving skill set that enables you to provide life-saving care.

How Much Does a Trauma Nurse Make?
As of 2020, the average annual salary for a Trauma Nurse is about $80,000. As with any profession, factors such as years of experience, the kind of employer you work for, and the state and city you work in can have a significant impact on how you are compensated. This is also where additional emergency care and trauma certifications, as well as a higher academic degree, can serve your financial advancement.

Source: PayScale, Aug 2018

When patients are brought into an emergency or trauma department, Trauma Nurses must assess, react and quickly make decisions in order to reduce or control immediate life-threatening risks. Additionally, you’ll help fellow doctors and specialists stabilize their patients as effectively and efficiently as possible. These are high stress working conditions which require an ability to put personal emotions aside and focus solely on what steps need to be taken to provide live-saving care.
As a Trauma Nurse, you’re one of the first people to assess patients who require emergency care. This means that it’s your job to quickly gain as much information from the patient, if they’re able, the emergency response team, or their family, to gain a full picture of the trauma a patient has endured. This information is crucial in assessing the effect of existing health risks and determining which stabilizing measures need to be prioritized.
Trauma Nurses are constantly in high stress situations, and rely on a structured care approach to provide rapid and efficient patient care, and to easily identify the immediate and future needs of your patients.
When you’re a Trauma Nurse, no two emergency cases will look the same. You’ll be responsible for knowing how to treat a variety of traumatic injuries, know how these injuries could pose additional complications or health risks, and how to troubleshoot various health or communication challenges.
You’ll work in a busy and exciting environment, making a difference by saving lives every day."
What Does a Trauma Nurse Do?

Trauma Nurses wear many hats. When dealing with immediate critical care, they must be a hands-on care provider and an active communicator. Once a patient is stabilized and discharged or transferred to another department, Trauma Nurses will connect with their patient’s loved ones to provide updates, explain how their trauma was treated, and provide any additional information or resources that they need.


As a Trauma Nurse, you’ll collaborate with doctors to provide comprehensive quality care. Additionally, you’ll work with family members to gain any relevant patient health history and personal information to better inform your course of action.


Once a patient is stable or in the care of another provider, you’ll provide them and their families or guardians with the clinical resources and emotional support that their trauma requires. Unfortunately, many trauma cases are results of abuse, so it’s your job as a trauma care professional to help victims find the support resources and communicate with law enforcement if needed or desired.


When it comes to treating and supporting victims of abuse or neglect, it’s the job of a Trauma Nurse to keep a thorough record of a patient’s state upon admission to emergency care, what they were treated for, and any other red flags that might be relevant to a further investigation.


Trauma Nurses must be proficient in a variety of treatments for critical injuries and illnesses. In addition to being able to quickly and accurately administer Basic Life Support practices, Trauma Nurses should know how to control bleeding from a range of wounds; know best practices in maintaining vital signs; and know how to assess what proactive measures might prevent further complications.


Having a role in trauma means being able to find solutions that allow rapid, quality life-saving care. Because of this, emergency care professionals, Trauma Nurses included, are constantly creating new ways to approach the cases they treat every day. While some of these innovations might be patient-specific, others, like the invention of the crash cart, have been adopted at a global scale.

Where can a Trauma Nurse work?
  • Ambulance transport/flight nursing
    Trauma Nurses often bring their critical care expertise to first response or emergency transport situations. In these instances, Trauma Nurses provide as much care as possible to a critical patient while they’re being brought to an emergency facility. Here, it’s important to prioritize stabilization practices so that the patient doesn’t deteriorate before reaching their destination.
  • Hospitals
    In hospitals, Trauma Nurses typically function within the Emergency Room or a dedicated trauma department. Here, Trauma Nurses receive those being brought in by emergency transport, and maintain and improve the vital stabilization provided by their patient’s first responders. Trauma Nurses also work closely with doctors and specialists to assist in lifesaving interventions, and communicate information they’ve learned in their initial assessments.
  • Intensive care units
    In an ICU setting, Trauma Nurses monitor and treat patients who are still considered to be in critical condition. This can be post-op, or due to unforeseen complications.
  • Trauma centers
    Trauma centers are medical facilities dedicated to treating traumatic illnesses and injuries. These centers are ranked on a scale from I to IV to represent the treatment capabilities they provide. Here, Trauma Nurses hold the same responsibilities as they would in a hospital setting.
Trauma Nurse Path

Get an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Depending on whether you pursue your ADN or BSN, your academic journey to becoming a Trauma Nurse can take two to four years to complete. It’s important to note that while a BSN is not required, pursuing a higher degree of education will provide you with a competitive appeal to employers, and more opportunities.

Pass the NCLEX-RN and work as a Registered Nurse.

Once you’ve earned your license as a Registered Nurse, you’ll need to spend two years, clocking an average of 1,000 practice hours per year in Trauma Nursing and 20-30 hours of coursework

Get certified as a Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN) through the Society of Trauma Nurses, and earn your core certifications in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support through the American Heart Association.

Some employers require the Trauma Nursing Core Course Certification and Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course Certification.

You’re ready to work as a Trauma Nurse.

Join an Organization
Become a member of a Trauma Nurse organization to find career opportunities, learn from your colleagues, and support the profession.

Society of Trauma Nurses

Emergency Nurses Association

American Trauma Society
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