How to Become a Trauma Nurse

Nursing is an exciting and rewarding profession and no specialty in nursing can be as exciting, or as rewarding, as trauma. How to become a trauma nurse is not as mystifying as it might sound at first; any registered nurse can specialize in trauma if he is dedicated and applies some personal discipline.

Education and Licensure

Anyone wishing to become a trauma nurse must first become a nurse. The education a student receives to become eligible to sit for the licensure exam is a generalized course of study, and all nursing students will have the same courses and training regardless of what specialty they wish to pursue. Completion of the education will confer a degree, sometimes an associate’s degree, but now more commonly, a bachelor’s degree in nursing science and this degree will allow the student to sit for his state’s Nursing Board exam. All the states use the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, NCLEX, as their board exam and once the newly graduated nurse passes this exam he will be licensed to practice nursing in his state. Once licensed, a nurse is considered minimally competent to practice the profession, but he needs more training and education before becoming a specialist, most of which is on the job training.

The Trauma Nurse

A trauma nurse is a registered nurse who has received additional specialized training to stabilize a patient who has been injured. Anytime someone is severely injured, he has one hour, known as the Golden Hour, between injury and stabilizing surgery, and as it takes longer, his chances of a good outcome plummet. Over the last few decades, the task of assessing and treating the patient has become standardized and has evolved into a ballet-like dance involving physicians, nurses, technicians, and radiographers. The trauma nurse has very defined roles in this dance, including a head to toe rapid assessment, focusing on airway, breathing, circulatory system, neurological status, and specific injuries. This is followed by intervention of any of these systems. The trauma nurse also helps to prepare the patient for surgery, always being mindful of the elapsed time. Finally, and most critically, the trauma nurse must be able to assess a patient and within five minutes or less be able to establish the criticality of the patient.

Becoming a Trauma Nurse

After a nurse receives his degree he will be expected to become skilled at the basics of nursing before transferring to work in the Emergency Department. After he becomes a skilled emergency nurse, he will sit for the specialization exam and become a Certified Emergency Nurse. Once he is a skilled emergency nurse, he will then start training to become a trauma nurse. The American Emergency Nursing Association offers a course, the Trauma Nurse Core Course, which will help the dedicated nurse learn how to become a trauma nurse and most trauma centers require their nurses to hold this certification before transferring to the trauma department. Once there, the he will have extensive training, usually with an experienced preceptor, before he becomes one of the team.

Trauma nurses are viewed with awe by most of the other nursing specialties and they also view the profession differently. Little fazes a trauma nurse, even when a patient’s condition is worsening, but most trauma nurses also have little patience for the “touchy-feely” side of the profession, the intensity of the care given to their patients, as well as the amount of time spent with the patients precludes that bond. Nonetheless, the trauma nurse is respected by everyone. If you wonder how to become a trauma nurse, remember that it takes dedication and drive more than any other quality.

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