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HEALTHCARE CAREER GUIDES

Trauma Nurse Career

OVERVIEW

What is a Trauma Nurse?


 

A trauma nurse is a specialized nurse trained to deal with life-threatening or critical injuries. Trauma certified registered nurses (TCRNs) are calm under pressure and have a high level of experience and training. Trauma nurses often work in the ER or intensive care unit. Trauma nurses must be especially skilled at providing life-saving care like CPR and defibrillation.

RESPONSIBILITIES

What Does a Trauma Nurse Do?

The main role of emergency nursing is to stabilize patients and keep them alive.

 

Some of the duties of trauma nurses include:

  • Triaging patients or working with triage nurses to help focus on the most critical patients first
  • Recognizing the signs of deterioration in unstable patients
  • Giving first aid, CPR, or other emergency medical care as needed
  • Giving emergency medications
  • Giving IV fluids or blood transfusions
  • Performing wound care
  • Working directly with physicians to give updates on medical conditions, wounds, and injuries
  • Working with patients and their families to give reassurance and direction
  • Providing resources to patients who have gone through a traumatic injury or event
  • Reporting cases of abuse or neglect
  • Working with law enforcement if criminal activity is involved
  • Maintaining proper documentation of the care of patients
  • Working calmly and carefully while dealing with life-threatening injuries
  • Making quick decisions to best serve patients
  • Juggling many different tasks and cases simultaneously
  • Following instructions carefully during chaos

EDUCATION & BEST DEGREES

How Do I Become a Trauma Nurse?

Trauma nurses are specialized registered nurses, so the steps to becoming a TCRN will depend on your state regulations for registered nursing. However, the requirements for becoming a registered nurse and then a trauma nurse are fairly similar across states. Typically it will take several years to become a nurse that deals with critical care and trauma—you’ll first have to become an RN and then additionally have several years of trauma experience before you can become fully certified.

There are several educational paths you can take to become an RN and then move to trauma nursing. To become a trauma nurse:

  • Earn a nursing diploma that leads to licensure through a hospital or school program. This isn’t a degree program but is instead a course program that prepares you for the NCLEX and gives you a diploma that qualifies you for certification.
  • Earn an ADN. An Associate Degree in Nursing is a popular option for those who want to become RNs. This program allows you to earn an associate degree while preparing for the NCLEX and RN certification.
  • Complete a BSN program. Bachelor of Science in Nursing is one of the best options for those who want to become an RN. A BSN program will boost your résumé, prepare you for the NCLEX and RN certification, and will make you an attractive candidate especially for hospitals that are working to achieve magnet status. If you want to work in trauma and are already an RN, a BSN can help make you more qualified and prepared for a specialty.

Best Degrees for a Trauma Nurse

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: Due to in-person clinical requirements, students must be full time residents of Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, or Wisconsin to enroll in this program. The coursework in this program is offered online, but there are in-person requirements.
  • Tuition: $8,755 per 6-month term for the first 4 terms of pre-nursing coursework and $8,755 per 6-month term for the remaining 4 terms of clinical nursing coursework.
  • Time: This program has a set pace and an expected completion time of 4 years. Certain coursework may be accelerated to finish faster.
  • WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.
  • If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Community Health
  • Women's and Children's Nursing
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Research
Health & Nursing
COMPARE

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish within 20 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 23 total courses in this program.
  • Transfers: Students can transfer up to 90 credits.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Healthcare Policy and Economics
  • Information Technology in Nursing Practice
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Applied Healthcare Statistics

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

Nursing – Leadership & Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 62% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 37 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion and $5,035 per 6-month term during graduate portion.
  • Courses: 32 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé you will learn in this program:

  • Quality Outcomes in a Culture of Value-Based Nursing Care
  • Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Advanced Pathopharmacological Foundations
  • Informatics for Transforming Nursing Care

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality. This program is ideal for current RNs who are interested in earning both their BSn and MSN in an accelerated program.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

Nursing – Leadership & Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for additional career opportunities.

  • Time: 61% of grads finish within 23 months
  • Tuition: $5,035 per 6-month term
  • Courses: 15 total courses in this program

This program is ideal for current RNs who have a BSN and are ready for the next step in their education.

Skills for your résumé you will learn in this program:

  • Quality Outcomes in a Culture of Value-Based Nursing Care
  • Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Advanced Pathopharmacological Foundations
  • Informatics for Transforming Nursing Care

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

Nursing Leadership and Management – Post-Master's Certificate

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who...

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who are ready for greater responsibility in a leadership and management role.

  • Time: Students typically finish this program in 12 months.
  • Tuition: $5,035 per 6-month term. The cost to sit for the NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam is included in tuition.
  • Courses: 8 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Resource Management
  • Business Case Analysis
  • Evaluating Healthcare Improvements

How Much Does a Trauma Nurse Make?

$73,906

According to ZipRecruiter, in 2023 trauma nurses make an average of $73,906 per year. Average salaries vary by state, such as in New York where the average salary is $90,271 per year.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

6%

From 2022 to 2032, employment for registered nurses is expected to grow 6%. Trauma nurses are in particularly high demand, as it is a rigorous and challenging field in need of highly skilled nurses. Additionally, hospitals are continually working toward magnet status, so they’re looking for RNs with a BSN to help them meet their goals.

SKILLS

What Skills and Certifications Does a Trauma Nurse Need?

After earning your degree, you’ll need to pass other requirements in order to become an RN. You’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and meet your other state requirements to be eligible for nursing licensure.

After you pass your exam and become an RN you’ll need to gain additional certifications to prepare you for trauma nursing. Trauma nurses need to be certified in basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, and often pediatric advanced life support. Depending on where you want to work, there may be additional requirements for trauma nurses. The Trauma Nursing Core Course and Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course may also be required.

Ultimately most trauma nursing positions will require nurses to be Trauma Certified Registered Nurse licensed. In order to obtain the TCRN you will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Possess an active, unrestricted RN license
  • Two years or 1,000 practice hours in trauma nursing, including direct and indirect patient care
  • Twenty to thirty hours of trauma-specific coursework

Our Online University Degree Programs Start on the First of Every Month, All Year Long

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

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Interested in Becoming a Trauma Nurse?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.