General Resources » Trauma Nursing: The Role of the Nurse in Emergency Care

Trauma Nursing: The Role of the Nurse in Emergency Care

The Critical Area of Critical Care

Trauma is the number one cause of years of productive life lost before the age of 75 and the leading cause of death up to and until the age of 45, according to a position paper by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the Committee on Military Trauma Care. The authors also reported that as many as 20 percent of U.S. deaths from trauma in 2014 may have been preventable with optimal trauma care—the type of care provided by trauma nurses.

This infographic reflects information up to 06/01/2018. Percentages and amounts are subject to change.

What Do Trauma Nurses Do?

Patients in critical condition may have erratic or extremely unhealthy vital signs. Critical care nurses, also called trauma nurses or ICU nurses, have the same basic duties and responsibilities as traditional staff RNs but are also responsible for closely monitoring patients recovering from serious illness or injury. And in emergency medication situations, trauma nurses are usually among the first healthcare professionals to provide medical assistance.

The core tasks of trauma nurses include providing immediate and effective medical care, administering emergency medication and drugs, and performing emergency medical procedures as needed to stabilize patients in the ICU or other emergency care setting. Trauma Nurse Practitioners from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine further explain some of the specific tasks charged to critical care nurses:

  • Work collaboratively with the attending physicians and surgical residents to ensure continuity of care to trauma and general surgery patients
  • Help plan, implement and evaluate health care treatments
  • Perform a variety of procedures on patients daily (monitoring patient progress, assisting in wound care, providing patient and family education, etc.)
  • Work closely with case managers, social workers and financial counselors to help coordinate the discharge process
  • Function as liaison for the trauma coordinator, research nurses, bedside nurses and ancillary staff attached to the patient
  • Provide follow-up with ICU patients after discharge (e.g., wound care)

In addition, critical care nurses play an important caregiving role for patients and their families who may be struggling with the gravity of their situation., a partnership between Oxford-based charity DIPEx and the Health Experiences Research Group at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Healthcare Sciences, traveled all around the United Kingdom to find out about the experiences patients had with ICU nurses. These stories highlight some of the lesser-known (but equally important) aspects of critical care nursing:

“Many people felt comfortable and secure in the ICU because of the nursing care they received. Several people noted how they were treated like human beings, that the nurses became like friends, and were good at accommodating the many and differing needs of the individuals under their care…Some people said they felt like children because they needed nurses to do everything for them. They compared the care they received to that of a mother looking after a child.”

This infographic reflects information up to 06/01/2018. Percentages and amounts are subject to change.

How to Become a Trauma Nurse

Get certified in emergency nursing

Like all nurses in the United States, trauma nurses must first be certified as RNs before specializing in critical care. Registered nurses may then go on to obtain a specialty certification in the field of trauma.* The Board Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) provides certifications across the emergency and trauma nursing spectrum, including:

  • Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN)
  • Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN)
  • Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN)
  • Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN)
  • Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN)

*Note: Although experience is not required to sit for the above trauma nursing certifications, the BCEN recommend two years of trauma nursing experience at an average of 1,000 practice hours per year across the trauma care continuum before sitting for the exam.

Continuing education for aspiring trauma nurses

You may also consider earning an advanced nursing degree if you plan on specializing your career. Among critical care nurses, 54 percent have a bachelor’s degree and nearly a quarter (24 percent) have a master’s degree or higher, according to the most recent data from the Critical Care Nurse Work Environments Survey published by Critical Care Nurse. An advanced degree may also increase your earning potential and help you step into an educational or leadership role within trauma nursing.

Master’s of Nursing degree with a focus in Acute Care prepares you to assess, treat and manage acute and chronic conditions, particularly complex and life-threatening injuries and illnesses among teens, middle adults and the elderly.

This infographic reflects information up to 06/01/2018. Percentages and amounts are subject to change.

Ready to start comparing programs?
See which RN to MSN program is right for you.

Learn More