Complete Guide to the Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) Specialty

Last Updated/Verified: Sep 14, 2020

Definition: What Is an Emergency Nurse Practitioner?

An Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) manages acutely injured or ill patients in an emergency setting. This specialty demands the ability to treat conditions with different levels of severity. An ENP sees patients of any age, typically in an urgent care or hospital emergency room environment. Laws governing the scope of practice vary by state, with some state requiring doctor supervision while others do not.

ENPs diagnose and care for patients with emergent symptoms and perform certain procedures. As nurses, they collect patient information that includes their symptoms and environmental information. These specialists may spend more time educating patients and teaching due to their advanced skill level.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice

Given their extensive educational background, ENPs have a much wider scope of practice than regular RNs. They also have specialized duties related to their role in treating trauma and illness.

The scope of practice of an ENP includes the following:

  • Order X-rays for injured limbs
  • Determine if scans and other tests are needed for head injuries
  • Prescribe pain medication
  • Request lab work
  • Consult with other medical professionals regarding unstable or critical patients
  • Transfer non-emergency patients to different departments of the hospital

Skills & Abilities

Emergency room cases have a higher likelihood of undesirable outcomes. Effective ENPs do not linger over patient deaths. However, it’s imperative that prospective ENPs become aware of the high-stress, often life-or-death environment that they will be working in daily. Emotions in ER environments run very high. It’s important to remain level-headed when patients and family members scream, spit, curse, and yell. ENPs know not to take this behavior personally. On the flip-side, ENPs enjoy the reward of getting to help save lives, and can appreciate working in a setting that is never the same day-to-day and is rarely boring.

Other skills and abilities of great emergency nurse practitioners include:

  • Able to work at an accelerated pace
  • Remains calm amidst chaos
  • Good multi-tasker
  • Agreeable, extroverted
  • Open
  • Good coping skills
  • Technically astute to a variety of equipment
  • Can manage complex machinery
  • Perceptive and able to quickly notice important changes
  • Able to accurately assess a patient’s condition

Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification & Subspecialties

It is crucial for nurses to successfully complete the certification process to work as an emergency nurse practitioner. Students take the certification test once they successfully graduate from their online ENP program. The ENP certification examination is competency-based, and tests the clinical knowledge of ENPs across the lifespan. Information is as follows:

Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)
OrganizationThe American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
Cost$240 to $315
Number of Questions150
Eligibility RequirementsThree options, including completion of an academic emergency care graduate/post-graduate NP program from an accredited nursing program, or completion of dual FNP/ENP graduate/post-graduate certificate program from an accredited nursing program

Students can search for an emergency nurse practitioner program and choose electives or meet their clinical requirements in a subspecialty area if they wish. Subspecializing is entirely optional, and often requires earning additional certifications.

Since there are few degrees for ENP specialization, RNs can select from the following subspecialties and dual certifications:

  • Family/emergency NP
  • Family/adult-gerontology acute care NP
  • Emergency care focus
  • Family/adult-gerontological acute care with advanced emergency nursing specialization
  • Emergency/trauma care

Becoming an Emergency Nurse Practitioner

It’s not uncommon for registered nurses to have an interest in advancing their careers. Becoming a nurse practitioner, however, involves a few steps that should be undertaken carefully. Those interested in the ENP pathway will need to select an accredited online ENP program at the degree level of their choosing. Depending on the student’s goals and current degree level, they may be eligible for the following program types:

  • MSN-ENP Degree
  • Post-Master’s ENP Certificate
  • DNP-ENP Degree

Once the appropriate program has been completed, grads will need to become licensed and certified in their state and become familiar with the level of practice authority their state allows.

If you are a current RN interested in enrolling in a nurse practitioner program in the emergency specialty, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to give yourself a solid foundation for advanced practice. Seeking employment as an RN in an emergency room or trauma floor, or in acute or urgent care, will give you a great background in the emergency specialization.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner Employment Opportunities

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't break out job outlooks for the ENP role, nurse practitioners in general can anticipate job security for some time to come. Demand for emergency nurse practitioners may grow as much as 26% by 2028, much faster than the average job growth rate.

The high demand corresponds to a higher emphasis and increased need for preventive care and general care due to an aging population.

Emergency nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Trauma centers
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Teaching institutions
  • Community and public health settings

Emergency Nurse Practitioner Salaries

According to Payscale.com, the average salary of an emergency nurse practitioner is $97,000. Entry-level jobs for ENPs with a year of experience pay an average of $77,000. An experienced ENP earns an average of $126,000.

Factors affecting these salaries include the following:

  • Geographic location
  • Urban versus suburban population center
  • Years of experience
  • Quality of educational institution and academic performance
  • Promotions and advancement within the organization you work for
  • Specialization

Emergency nurse practitioners play a vital role in saving lives and treating acute patients that show up in the ER or urgent care clinic where they work. Although becoming an ENP takes years of study and dedication, a successful graduate can look forward to rewarding work and competitive salaries, as well as plenty of room for further job growth.