JAANUU » What Is a Trauma Nurse and How Do You Become One?

What Is a Trauma Nurse and How Do You Become One?

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Does waking up every morning and heading out to a rewarding, high-intensity job sound like your dream? Would you like to work in a fast-paced healthcare environment or even on an airlift helicopter? Are you good in an emergency? 

If you find yourself answering “yes,” you may be a great candidate for trauma nursing. The world needs people like you to do tough jobs that leave a significant impact. Trauma nurses are often at the center of action, working quickly to save lives. 

In this article, we’ll give you all of the answers on how to become a trauma nurse and what your daily life would look like in this field. And, if it’s something you want to pursue, we’ve got your back with information on the schooling and trauma certifications for nurses who wish to be in this line of work. 

What is a trauma nurse?

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As you probably gather from the name, trauma nurses work with patients in crisis. That includes victims of burns, falls, violent events and car accidents. Patients needing trauma care require immediate attention, as their lives often depend on it. 

Trauma certified registered nurses (TCRNs) assist first responders, emergency department doctors and surgeons in intense, high-pressure situations—working to save lives. That means they have their patients’ lives in their hands, which means they’re pretty heroic. (Although, if you ask us, all nurses are pretty heroic.) 

What does a trauma nurse do?

In short, trauma nurses assist physicians in helping and healing people who’ve been through a traumatic event. But, what does this work look like in practice? Here are some of the key tasks that trauma nurses perform. 

  • Triage patients to prioritize those with life-threatening injuries and conditions
  • Provide first aid
  • Give CPR
  • Administer medications 
  • Administer fluids or blood through IV lines
  • Monitor vital signs 
  • Dress wounds
  • Keep doctors informed on patient status
  • Keep family members informed on patient status
  • Help keep trauma patients’ family members calm 
  • Document patient care

Additional roles and duties of a trauma nurse

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Trauma nurses jump into action at critical moments, but their reach extends beyond this immediate care. Here are a few additional duties that trauma nurses perform and more info about the qualities these healthcare professionals embody to get this work done right. 


  • Follow up with patients who have been through a traumatic event
  • Report abuse and criminal activity to law enforcement and other organizations
  • Provide information on preventing injuries


  • Multi-tasking 
  • Following instructions
  • Demonstrating a keen attention to detail
  • Working quickly, calmly and carefully 

What are the education requirements for a trauma nurse?

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There is no one right way to become a trauma nurse, and the difficult but worthy first step is deciding if this high-pressure, high-stakes healthcare job is for you. The world needs nurses of every kind, and you’re doing important work when you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing different areas of this field. It’s all about finding what’s right for you. That’s how you’ll be able to help others best. 

If you decide to pursue a career in trauma nursing, then it’s time to strap on that super-hero cape. And, by “super-hero cape,” we mean a graduation robe (with some scrubs underneath, obvi). You’ll need to get an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or a BSN (Bachelor’s in Nursing Science). Both of these educational paths will set you up well for becoming a registered nurse (RN), which you’ll need to do before becoming a trauma nurse. 

To become a registered nurse, you’ll first need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam (although with all the studying and dedication you put into your education, we bet you’ve got that in the bag). 

All in all, how long does it take to become a trauma nurse? The answer is a minimum of six years. (But what are a few years when you have a rich, rewarding career ahead and will be adding years to your patients’ lives?)

Where do trauma nurses work?

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Trauma nurses often find work in a number of environments, including:

  • Emergency rooms
  • Critical care wards
  • Trauma centers/departments
  • Ambulances
  • Airlifts 
  • Intensive care units (ICUs)
  • Burn units

What’s the difference between a trauma nurse and an ICU nurse?

If trauma nurses can work in the ICU, then how come they aren’t considered an ICU nurse? ICU nurses provide longer-term, structured care while trauma nurses have to work quickly in emergency situations. Think of it this way: Trauma nurses manage a crisis, while ICU nurses plan a severe patient’s way forward and help them see it through. ERs can be full of chaos, but ICUs should always be organized and controlled. This defining factor implies a different type of work in each space. 

The common ground? Both trauma nurses and ICU nurses are essential to saving lives and helping patients with severe conditions. 

Why should you become a trauma nurse?

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There is only one reason to become a trauma nurse: because you want to. That means taking on the responsibility of your education and your work with patients in a healthcare setting. It means taking a good look at yourself, the requirements of the job, and the schooling you’ll need, and deciding whether this career is right for you. 

And if money is a motivating factor as you deliberate your career, we’re happy to share that the average trauma nurse salary in the United States is $113,213, or around $54 per hour. Plus, there’s a bonus (literally). Trauma nurses, on average, earn an extra $2,332 per year. Finally, with experience comes even better pay. A senior trauma nurse earns closer to $140,000 on average. 

Wherever your career takes you, we’re grateful to be able to come along for the ride. As you get certified to do the important work of a trauma nurse, we’ll be there with luxe scrubs and all the moral support (and pockets) that you need.

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