How to Become an Emergency Nurse Practitioner
Any career in nursing offers job fulfillment, flexibility, and diverse opportunities for personal and professional growth. If you're interested in increased responsibility, leadership positions, and working in critical environments, becoming an emergency nurse practitioner (ENP) could be the right fit.
Like other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), becoming an emergency nurse practitioner (sometimes called an emergency medicine nurse practitioner) means pursuing advanced degrees and extra certifications. It typically takes 2-4 years of additional education beyond the requirements of an entry-level RN. You'll also need to gain clinical experience as an RN before becoming an ENP, so this should be a longer-term goal for new or aspiring nurses.
What Does an Emergency Medicine Nurse Practitioner Do?
Scope of practice is the critical distinction between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner. Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners have extra training that allows them to evaluate, diagnose, and treat some conditions with less supervision from a physician. In some cases and states, they may not require oversight from a physician at all.
Just as the name suggests, emergency nurse practitioners are NPs who work in emergency departments or urgent care facilities, providing critical care and even diagnosing and treating acute symptoms of emergency patients. Nurse practitioners in urgent care settings are skilled in caring for the whole patient. Besides assessing and treating physical symptoms, ENPs provide psychological support for patients and their families and educate patients on how to carry out treatment plans at home.
Emergency Medicine Nurse Practitioner Education
To become an emergency nurse practitioner – or any kind of advanced practice registered nurse – you'll need to get an advanced degree. As a result, satisfying the emergency medicine nurse practitioner education requirements will take a minimum of about eight to ten years:
• Year 1-4: Get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You'll need a four-year degree to apply for advanced degree programs, so if you're considering becoming an ENP, your priority should be earning your BSN. Working registered nurses with an associate degree or nursing diploma program can speed up the process with an ADN-to-BSN or RN-to-BSN program.
• Year 4: Pass the NCLEX-RN and get licensed. Unless you're already a practicing nurse who completed an ADN-to-BSN or RN-to-BSN program, you'll need to take the NCLEX-RN exam after completing your four-year degree. This test evaluates your knowledge and skills to ensure you're ready to work as an RN. Once you pass, apply for licensure in the state where you live.
• Years 5-7: Get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These advanced degrees provide much of the extra education and training you need to certify as an emergency nurse practitioner and usually take two to three years to complete.
• Year 7: Get certified as an ENP. You'll also need additional certifications to work in an emergency department, such as an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification. Advanced degree programs designed to prepare nurse practitioners usually include obtaining these certifications as part of the program. ANCC’s Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (ENP-BC) is available for those seeking renewal.
This timeline only reflects how long it will take to get the necessary education and credentials to work as an emergency nurse practitioner. You'll also need on-the-job experience. Aspiring RNs who haven't started school should add a few years to the timeline. Count on spending time gaining clinical experience after getting your BSN before applying for an advanced degree.
Emergency Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Prospects
Thanks to their extra training and a much broader scope of practice, emergency nurse practitioners earn quite a bit more than RNs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on average, nurse practitioners made $123,780 in 2021. That's about 50% more than the earnings of a registered nurse in the same year.
Emergency nurse practitioners can look forward to solid career prospects. Nursing is in high demand, and health care services are always necessary. Their extra training and skills make ENPs a vital part of health care in many communities, and the BLS projects 40% growth (much higher than average) for this position over ten years.
Learn about the other types of nurse practitioner specialties and how to go from an RN to a nurse practitioner.