Roles of a trauma nurse

Is trauma nursing for you?

This story was originally published on Feb. 14, 2015. 

Considering a career in trauma nursing?

Check out the following questions, a few vital signs gathered from several experts in the field.

1. What do you expect from a career in trauma nursing?

According to the folks at, expect long and odd hours. Patient injuries often prove to be severe and not for the weak of stomach. Past studies revealed that more than one quarter of the trauma patients at Grady had penetrating injuries.

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2. Are you interested in total care?

Trauma nurses need to be well-rounded and have the ability to provide total care for each patient. Versatility is a must.

3. Do you prefer a fast-paced workday?

While some opt for a profession that remains routine each day or has a particular focus, trauma nurses get variety at a non-stop pace. According to trauma nurse Dan Cunningham, “things are constantly moving and changing.” Trauma professionals must keep on their toes and on the go.

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4. Can you multi-task?

A sharp memory and the ability to manage multiple responsibilities at once remains vital in trauma nursing. Working on several patients at once will be a daily occurrence in the trauma center.

5. Do you enjoy continuing to learn?

The industry encourages trauma nurses to acquire additional certifications and continue their education while on the job. “If you want to be a functioning nurse, and you want to take your career seriously,” Cunningham said, “you’re going to seek out more education.” Be willing to read up on the field, including publications such as “The Journal of Trauma Nursing,” published six times annually by the Society of Trauma Nursing.

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6. Do you have the ability to think critically and remain calm in stressful situations?

Cunningham says trauma nurses basically need a certain disposition or personality to thrive in the environment. “You can’t teach the critical thinking that comes from nursing, especially emergency nursing. Some people are able to think critically and stay calm. I’ve seen nurses that didn’t make it and kind of washed out. It just wasn’t for them. Other people come into this and they shine, they enjoy it.”

7. Can you work well with others?

Working in a trauma center finds nurses rubbing elbows with a variety of specialists, from neurosurgeons to orthopedists. Those who function as team players rise to the top. Gina Solomon of Gwinnett Medical Center says she strives to know what a respective surgeon needs before he or she asks for it.

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8. Is it worth the pay?

According to, the average salary for a registered nurse in a level 1 trauma center in America is $58,000. Although it varies depending on hospital, location and experience, trauma nurses usually earn on the higher end of the RN scale. According to some reports, trauma nurse salaries have been known to reach heights of more than $120,000.

9. Do you have a good bedside manner?

A trauma center patient goes through, well, a highly traumatic experience. You need to be able to communicate well with patients who are alert. “Most people don’t go out and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get into a motor vehicle crash today.,’” said Solomon. “So there’s the element of psychosocial issues that go with it, too, that I like helping the patients and their families with.”

10. Can you assess things properly and know when to move along?

Cunningham says the most challenging part of the job is working with people who are convinced they’re severely ill, but in reality they’re not. Often, he explains, this can lead to a lengthy argument or discussion. “It takes you away from what you need to be doing and need to be addressing,” he said. “You know you need to be moving other things faster. It’s very frustrating when you get hung up with that.”