Trauma Nurse Career GuideDiscover the demanding and rewarding world of Trauma Nursing, including key responsibilities, skills required, and the impact on emergency care. These critical-care nurses excel in high-pressure situations, combining clinical expertise with quick decision-making. Ideal for those seeking a dynamic, fast-paced medical career, Trauma Nursing is both challenging and deeply rewarding.
What is a Trauma Nurse?
What does a Trauma Nurse do?
Their responsibilities include conducting rapid assessments, administering life-saving interventions, including CPR, collaborating with multidisciplinary teams, and providing compassionate support to patients and their families during challenging moments. They also serve as liaisons between physicians and families and, when needed law enforcement.
What is the demand for Trauma Nurses?
How much does a Trauma Nurse make?
There are many opportunities to increase a trauma nurse's salary, including:
- Advanced education: Pursuing advanced degrees, such as a Master's or Doctorate in Nursing, can lead to higher-paying roles, such as nurse practitioner or nurse educator in the orthopedic field.
- Certifications: Obtaining specialized certifications in trauma nursing, such as the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN), can enhance expertise and make the nurse more marketable, potentially leading to salary increases.
- Years of experience: Generally, the more years of experience a nurse accumulates, the more likely they are to earn a higher salary. Experienced orthopedic nurses often command higher pay rates.
- Specialization: Focusing on a sub-specialty within trauma nursing, such as transport or flight nursing, can make a nurse more specialized and potentially increase their earning potential.
- Geographic location: Salaries can vary based on geographic location, with urban areas often offering higher salaries to compensate for the cost of living.
- Travel nursing: Travel nursing often pays more than traditional nursing positions because these positions meet the urgent need of healthcare facilities where the supply for trauma nurses is low, thus increasing the demand for trauma nurses.
- Additional responsibilities: Taking on additional responsibilities or leadership roles, such as charge nurse or unit manager, may come with increased compensation.
- Seeking opportunities for overtime or per diem work: Working extra hours through overtime or per diem shifts can contribute to higher overall earnings.
How do you become a Trauma Nurse?
Here are the key stages of achieving your career as a Trauma Nurse:
- 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 NurseAfter completing your nursing education, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse. This is a requirement in all states.
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.
- Earn your core certifications in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support through the American Heart AssociationOnce you’ve earned your license as a Registered Nurse, you will need to obtain Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications through the American Heart Association. Some employers require the completion of the Emergency Nurses Association’s Core Courses based on your selected area of speciality (e.g. Trauma Nursing Core, Emergency Nursing Pediatric Core). Additionally, it is recommended that you have at least two years of trauma nursing experience prior to sitting for the certification exam.
- Get certified as a Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN) through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing
- You're ready to work as a Trauma Nurse
Where do Trauma Nurses work?
- Trauma centers: Many trauma nurses are employed by hospitals designated as trauma centers. Trauma centers are categorized into different levels based on the level of resources and capabilities they provide. Level I centers offer the highest level of care, including research and education, while Level V centers provide basic trauma care.
- Emergency departments: Trauma nurses are often found in emergency departments of hospitals, including non-trauma center hospitals, where they respond to and manage acute medical situations, injuries, and emergencies.
- Critical care units: Some trauma nurses work in critical care units, such as Trauma Intensive Care Units (ICUs), where they provide ongoing specialized care to patients who remain in critical condition after initial stabilization in the emergency department.
- Air and ground medical transport services: Trauma nurses may be part of medical transport teams, working on helicopters, airplanes, or ambulances to provide immediate care and transport for critically ill or injured patients.
- Military healthcare: Trauma nurses may work in military settings, providing critical care to injured service members in combat zones or military hospitals.
What areas can a Trauma Nurse specialize in?
- Emergency Room (ER) Nursing: Specializing in ER nursing involves working in the emergency department, where trauma nurses are often the first to assess and stabilize patients with acute injuries.
- Flight Nursing: Flight nurses provide critical care in air ambulances or medical evacuation helicopters. This specialization requires skills in handling patients in confined spaces and under unique transport conditions.
- Pediatric Trauma Nursing: Specializing in pediatric trauma involves caring for injured children, requiring knowledge of pediatric anatomy, physiology, and specific emotional needs of young patients.
- Critical Care Nursing: This specialization focuses on caring for patients with life-threatening injuries, often in intensive care units (ICUs). Critical care trauma nurses must be skilled in advanced life support and complex clinical decision-making.
- Surgical Trauma Nursing: Nurses in this area assist in surgical procedures for trauma patients. This role requires an understanding of surgical protocols and the ability to work closely with surgeons and surgical teams.
- Burn Care Nursing: Specializing in burn care involves treating patients with minor to severe burns. This includes wound care, pain management, and supporting physical and emotional recovery.
- Orthopedic Trauma Nursing: This specialization focuses on caring for patients with traumatic musculoskeletal injuries, such as fractures and dislocations.
- Neurotrauma Nursing: Nurses specializing in neurotrauma care for patients with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. This requires knowledge of neurology and neurosurgical procedures.
4 Attributes of a Career in Trauma Nursing
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.
- Fast-pacedWhen 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.
- Patient-facingAs 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.
- StructuredTrauma Nurses are constantly in high stress situations, and rely on a structured care approach to provide rapid, efficient, vital patient care, and to easily identify the immediate and future needs of your patients.
- VariedWhen 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.
- What is a Trauma Nurse? | Sources: NurseJournal.org, Registered Nursing
- What's the demand for a Trauma Nurse? | Sources: CDC.gov, Nursing.org
- How do you become a Trauma Nurse? | Sources: Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, Emergency Nurses Association, RN Careers
- What does a Trauma Nurse do? | Sources: NurseJournal.org, Registered Nursing
- Where can a Trauma Nurse work? | Sources: NurseJournal.org, Registered Nursing, Nurse.org, Trauma Center Association of America, American College of Surgeons