Choosing to work as a nurse is a very rewarding and lucrative career. While the education and everyday expectations are challenging, those that take on this charge are rewarded in ways that cannot be quantified.
One worker in this admirable field is the trauma nurse. These nurses witness the most horrific of injuries and do their very best to bring all their education and expertise to every case.
If you think you are up to becoming a trauma nurse, and you have wondered about a trauma nurse salary, read this article to take a comprehensive look at this honored profession.
What Is a Trauma Nurse?
Before we answer questions regarding a trauma nurse salary, we need to learn more about the profession. Trauma nurses are nurses that work specifically with patients that have experienced an acute injury or illness.
Such incidents include vehicle accidents, assaults, gunshot wounds, stab wounds, head traumas, and injuries where the victim was crushed or experienced a sharp object penetration.
Trauma nurses stabilize and assess the most critical patients that visit emergency rooms or urgent care units.
What It Takes
It takes a special individual to work as a trauma nurse, as they work in a high stress environment that can be chaotic.
Trauma nurses work to assess each patient, some with horrific injuries, stabilize them, and create treatment plans with the trauma doctors on staff. They do all this while portraying a calm demeanor for the patients and their families.
Among other things, trauma nurses triage patients, recognize signs and symptoms of their injuries, administer CPR and other life saving first aid, administer medications, give blood and IV fluids, perform wound care, and communicate effectively with patients, physicians, families, and other staff members.
If a crime caused the trauma, or in cases of abuse, the trauma nurses must communicate with local and federal law enforcement officers.
Requirements to Become a Nurse
Trauma nurses hold one of the most stressful yet rewarding positions in medicine. If you desire to make a difference and help those that need you most, then maybe this is the career for you. Below are the requirements for becoming a licensed trauma nurse.
The first step in becoming a trauma nurse is to complete a registered nursing degree program.
While an associate's or a bachelor's degree program (ADN or BSN) will work, we recommend you complete the bachelor program because it will open up more doors of opportunity. This degree will take most students four years to complete.
Once you have got your ADN or BSN, then you will need to sit for and pass the NCLEX, which is the National Council Licensure Examination created specifically for nurses. To be a nurse in the United States, you must pass this exam.
There are plenty of courses and study materials specifically geared to help you pass the NCLEX, and we recommend you invest in some of these. For 2019 the overall passing rate was just over 76% for a first time test taker.
Specific Requirements for a Trauma Nurse
While you can work in a trauma department as a licensed nurse, the steps to becoming a certified trauma nurse are more involved.
First, while studying for your BSN or ADN it is important to take courses that will assist you in becoming a successful trauma nurse, such as anatomy, physiology, health promotion, pharmacology, risk reduction, and ethics.
One of the most challenging steps in becoming a registered trauma nurse is passing the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse exam (TCRN).
To sit for this exam, you must first be an active RN with two years or over 1,000 practice hours under your belt in a trauma department.
You must complete twenty to thirty hours of trauma specific coursework. Once you pass the examination, your license is good for four years.
Additionally, there are various other certifications that are required or helpful for a trauma nurse, depending on where they work. Typically all trauma nurse positions will require you to be CPR certified, but there are other certifications that might be helpful.
The advanced cardiac life support certification (ACLS), and an emergency nursing pediatric course (ENPC), or the certified emergency nurse (CEN) are all additional certifications available to trauma nurses.
Often in traumatic situations or medical emergencies there is a need for care flight or ambulances. In these cases, sometimes a trauma nurse certified in flight and other transportation means is required.
For these you can get your certified flight registration (CFRN) or your certified transport registration (CTRN). These certifications are also helpful if you choose a career in the military.
Difference Between Trauma and Emergency Nurses
While the two often overlap and compliment each other, trauma and emergency nurses are different variations of the profession. ER nurses are more general and receive incoming emergency room patients with illnesses or various health problems.
Trauma nurses work specifically in trauma departments and see patients coming in via ambulance or care flight who have had serious or life-threatening injuries.
Both ER and trauma nurses have to assess the seriousness and nature of each patient's condition. Typically the patients that are seen by ER nurses are coherent and can tell the medical staff what is ailing them.
In a lot of cases the patients that are seen by a trauma unit come in with life-threatening injuries or illnesses, and the nurses and doctors must quickly asses the situation and come up with a viable treatment optional.
Is There a Need for Trauma Nurses?
There is a great need all across the United States for nurses with all specialties. It is estimated that nearly 700,000 nurses are expected to retire between 2014 and 2024, and while there are a great number of nursing students graduating, there is still expected to be a shortage of experienced nurses to fill the gap left by these retirees.
This shortage will lead to a steady increase in the average trauma nurse salary.
We expect employment in nursing to increase 30% from 2014 to 2024, and with an increased demand, nurses are seeing an annual increase in average salaries of 2.6% per year since 2014.
As the Baby boomer generation ages, demands on the healthcare industry increase, which means we will need more nurses and other medical professionals to tend to their growing needs.
The Center for Disease Control sites accidental injuries as the leading cause of death for persons between the ages of one and 44, and as people continue to live longer, the number of accidents suffered by the elderly continues to climb.
This further increases the demand for trauma nurses. In fifteen states, including Texas, California, and Florida, there is an overall shortage of nurses in all specialties.
Provide Information on Trauma Nurse Salary Info
The average trauma nurse salary, as well as for other nurses, is promising. As of 2016, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that the average salary for trauma nurses was $68,450 per year, with the top 10% making $102,990 and the bottom 10% making $47,120. Zip Recruiter offers even higher numbers, stating that the average salary for a trauma nurse is $93,000.
Other Job Benefits for Nurses
While the salaries for nurses are rising and enticing, there are other perks an employer can offer you. Most nurses today are looking to their employers to offer growth and development.
Since nurses are required to continue their education, it is a benefit to find an employer who will pay for or reimburse for this cost.
In 2015 40% of advanced degreed nurses and 55% of RNs received certification and continuing education benefits from their employer. In addition, 69% of advanced degreed nurses and 49% of RNs received reimbursements for advanced degree programs and certifications.
Job Options for a Trauma Nurse
Most trauma nurses work in trauma units or emergency rooms in hospitals, but there is also a large need for this expertise in the military.
There are five levels of trauma units within the United States, and each hospital with such a unit is graded and given a level by the American College of Surgeons.
The first level, Level I, is the most comprehensive trauma units. These centers can treat any patient regardless of the severity and complications surrounding their injuries. If you suffer from an accident, this is the type of unit you want close to you.
Levels II and III include 24-hour emergency rooms, and both can treat some trauma patients, but can stabilize and assess a patient's injuries, and then either treat them or send them to a Trauma I hospital.
Level IV trauma centers can provide advanced life support and provide transport to a higher level unit, while level V can perform the initial evaluations, stabilize the patient, and perform general diagnostics before preparing to transport the patient to a more sophisticated center.
Even with the promise of a higher than average trauma nurse salary, the career of a trauma nurse is not for everyone.
To be a successful trauma nurse you must not only possess a high level of technical skills, but you must also be able to assess a chaotic situation, properly perform initial treatments on patients experiencing dire and life-threatening injuries, all while showing compassion for patients and their families.
If you enjoy helping others, and work well under pressure, then this might be the rewarding job for you.
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