How to Become a Trauma Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Job Requirements

Nurses wheel in patient on gurney

A trauma nurse works in the emergency room of a hospital and typically responds to the most critical and life-threatening cases. The job requires someone who can think on their feet and respond quickly to emergencies.

Not everyone is cut out to be a trauma nurse. A person has to be able to cope with the demands and the stress of the job. For those who crave excitement and variety, the reward of saving lives every day is great. There aren’t many entry-level positions in trauma nursing because of the amount of experience required to treat life-or-death situations.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Trauma Nurse
Education Requirements
Trauma Nurse Job Description
Sample Trauma Nurse Job Description
Trauma Nursing on YouTube
Who Makes Good Trauma Nurses?
Career Options
More Trauma Nursing on YouTube
Trauma Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Even More Trauma Nursing on YouTube
Professional Organizations
Relevant Publications
Apps for Trauma Nurse
Related Careers
ER Nurse vs Trauma Nurse

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information on trauma nurses, but the website does publish an overview of registered nurses. Salary information courtesy of Salary.com.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Minimum Education Required Associate degree
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Annual Salary $66,220
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm and Salary.com http://www.salary.com.

How to Become a Trauma Nurse

To work as a trauma nurse, an individual must:

  • Have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Pursue voluntary certification in trauma nursing

Education Requirements

To become a registered nurse, you will need to complete at minimum an associate degree in Nursing and have passed the NCLEX-RN. Trauma nurses may take advanced coursework and pursue certification that demonstrates advanced knowledge in emergency nursing and triage. Most nurses have a couple of years experience in another unit, such as intensive care, before becoming a trauma nurse.

Trauma Nurse Job Description

The primary role of the trauma nurse is to help stabilize the patient as quickly as possible. A trauma nurse will have to provide different kinds of emergency medical procedures, such as IV insertion, intubation, administration of medicine or drugs, monitoring and drawing blood. Trauma nurses should monitor carefully and watch out for any changes. Preparing a patient for surgery or diagnostic testing is also part of their role.

Sample Trauma Nurse Job Description

Here are some of the requirements for a trauma nurse job posting.

Responsibilities of the trauma nurse include:

  • Plans, supervises and evaluates nursing care
  • Ensures the prompt treatment of ER patients and minimizes patient wait times by triaging patients at the bedside as needed
  • Chart reviews, entering and reconciliation of charges and compiling data and reports

Qualifications:

  • Current RN license
  • Graduate of an accredited school of nursing
  • ADN/BSN
  • BLS/CPR certification
  • TNCC certification
  • At least 1 year of recent trauma/emergency room experience
  • Must obtain ACLS and PALS or ENPC certification within six months of hire
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills

Some people who are interested in the field of trauma nursing already have a background in emergency medical care, such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or Army medics who are trained in battlefield medicine.

Trauma Nursing on YouTube:

Here’s a video that shows the exciting Trauma nursing career in action from a Level 1 Trauma Center.

Who Makes Good Trauma Nurses?

All trauma nurses must have certain personality traits to flourish in this role, including:

  • Quick thinking
  • Good observation, assessment and prioritization skills
  • Multitasking ability
  • Good interpersonal and customer service skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Strong personal coping skills
  • Ability to stay calm amidst chaos

Career Options

Trauma nurses typically work in:

  • Emergency rooms in hospitals
  • Critical care units (CCUs)
  • Flight nursing in helicopters/airplanes

Salary ranges from $54,000 for an entry-level trauma nurse to $74,000 for a nurse with more than 20 years of experience. Here’s a snapshot of trauma nurse salaries from job boards:

  • SimplyHired: $58,000
  • Payscale.com: $65,659

More Trauma Nursing on YouTube:

This Trauma Nurse discusses her role in the Trauma nursing team and the qualities she believes to be in a terrific Trauma Nurse.

Trauma Nurse Certification

Although not required, trauma nurses are encouraged to get certification through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). Before applying for certification, you are required to have at least two years of experience in emergency nursing.

Nurses can be certified in emergency (CEN), pediatric emergency (CPEN), flight (CFRN) and critical care ground transport (CTRN) nursing. As with most certifications, you’re required to renew every two to three years by either taking an exam or earning continuing education units.

Trauma Nurse Cost of Certification

Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Fees for Non-members:

  • Credential: CEN
  • Initial Exam: $370
  • Recertification (CE or Exam): $350
  • Recertification (IBT): $370

Fees for Members:

  • Credential: CEN
  • Initial Exam: $230
  • Recertification (CE or Exam): $210
  • Recertification (IBT): $250
  • Applicable to: ENA members only

Emergency/Trauma Nursing Courses:

Recertification is earned every 4 years by:

Even More Trauma Nursing on YouTube:

Here’s a video on the various skills needed in the Trauma Nursing field from Certified Trauma Nurse, Jerry Collins.

Professional Organizations

Relevant Publications

Apps for Trauma Nurses

Journal of Trauma NursingJournal of Trauma Nursing: Free (iOS)
This app displays articles from the Journal of Trauma Nursing and information regarding the practice of trauma nursing, focusing on practice, education, health policy, administration, and research.
Trauma ScoreTrauma Score: $0.99 (iOS) / $1.99 (Android)
This app allows trauma and emergency nurses to calculate Trauma Injury Severity Score (TRISS) quickly. With the complexity of the calculations, it is helpful to have an app, like this one, to allow for minimal mistakes and quick results.
Trauma NursingTrauma Nursing: $19.95 (Android)
This app is for TNCC (Trauma Nursing Core Course) Certification Review. With this app, you can review 1,000 multiple choice fact, scenario, and case-based questions to practice for the certification exam. You can also get detailed answers for the incorrect questions and you are able to take the exam as many times as needed.

Related Careers

ER Nurse: If you’re the kind of nurse who can handle high pressure situations and aren’t squeamish, you should consider looking into all about an ER Nurse.

ER vs. Trauma Nurse

ER Nurse:

  • Patient Condition: Patients able to talk and in stable condition
  • Treatment: Work closely with patients who are ill or sick
  • Specialized for Emergency Room

Trauma Nurse:

  • Patient Condition: Patients rushed to the ER. Example: Car accident, stab wound, or gun shot.
  • Specialist who only rotates through trauma rooms and assists the trauma team of doctors
  • Work closely with patients brought in by ambulance with serious wounds/injuries