The role of an A&E nurse: Key roles and responsibilities

An accident and emergency nurse (A&E nurse) works in the hospital A&E department, caring for emergency arrivals who are suffering from acute illness or injuries. The work is fast-paced and adrenaline-charged for frontline nurses; this is the place where you will learn quickly, providing vital care and support for those who are suffering and often experiencing the worst day of their lives.

What does an A&E nurse do?

When a patient arrives at an A&E department they are often very frightened and an A&E nurse will be the first member of the hospital emergency medical team to see them and help relax them. As expected working in emergency healthcare, the days and nights of an A&E nurse are highly pressurised, unpredictable and potentially stressful. As an A&E nurse you will see a large variety of conditions and patients in critical situations where every second counts. 

When a patient arrives in A&E in an ambulance, the paramedics will hand the patient over to the A&E doctors and nurses. If the patient arrives by themselves, they will register first and then be pre-assessed by an A&E nurse via a triage so that the nurse can judge who needs to be seen first. The nurse will talk to the patient about their symptoms and take their vital signs. 

It’s crucial that an A&E nurse is able to make decisions quickly as it can be a matter of life or death. The nurse will have the expertise to refer the patient to the right doctor to get the right treatment for their condition. A&E nurses work with other medical professionals who they will need to communicate efficiently with, including paramedics, A&E doctors, consultants, trauma surgeons, psychiatrists, and radiographers. 

​An A&E department is a place where many people are feeling and displaying an array of emotions. These will include fear, worry, anger, trauma, grief, shock  — or many who will be feeling irritable and impatient if they have to wait. Sometimes the patients will be drunk or high on drugs. Due to emotions running high, patients and their families can take it out on the nurses, acting rudely or aggressively. An A&E nurse will be able to judge the situation and quickly defuse it using their experience to identify the best way to respond.

If this sounds like something you could do, then also take a look at our blog post on how to become a A&E nurse.

What are the key roles, responsibilities & duties of an A&E nurse? 

The patients who arrive in A&E and their situations are unpredictable, but there are certain roles, duties and responsibilities that an A&E nurse will perform on every shift. These can include: 

  • Talking with the paramedics and taking over the patient’s care
  • Doing the initial patient examination to assess the patient’s needs
  • Fixing dressings and administering medication for pain relief 
  • Determining what department the patient needs to be referred to
  • Completing all paperwork including discharge forms
  • Making detailed notes
  • Upholding high care standards
  • Making arrangements to admit patients into hospital if needed
  • Keeping families informed
  • Keeping in close contact with laboratory staff to pass results onto A&E doctors

What are the key skills and competencies of an A&E nurse?

Working in a high pressure environment isn’t right for everyone. Take a look at these key skills and competencies that contribute to the making of a great A&E nurse. You may already have some of the skills and competencies, and some are learnt through experience working in an A&E department.

Key skills

✔ The ability to think and act quickly and decisively

✔ Excellent time management

✔ Strong interpersonal skills 

✔ Super multitasking skills — you will get better at it with experience

✔  Competence in performing some emergency procedures including resuscitation

Key competencies

✔ Empathy and understanding when dealing with patients and colleagues under pressure

✔  A strong work ethic

✔  Flexibility — you will have to jump from patient to patient as needed, so you need to be the kind of person who thrives in an environment with constant change 

✔  The ability to separate work and home life so that you can switch off at the end of a busy shift

✔  Resilience and patience by the bucket load — this isn’t a job for the faint-hearted! 

✔  The ability to handle difficult patients —  from keeping a cool head, to judging how to calm different people when emotions run high (humour for some, a strict, direct and unwavering response for others)

Looking for open A&E nurse roles?

You have come to the right place. MCG Healthcare is proud to work with the NHS and private providers. Our expert team has a combined 75 years’ of healthcare recruitment experience so if you’re looking for a job as an A&E nurse, our experienced recruiters can help. Give us a call on 0330 024 1345 or register with us today.

About the author
Simon Watson Healthcare Writer

Simon Watson is a copy writer with a passion for research and an interesting in all thing’s healthcare. Writing about healthcare requires a lot of research and fact checking before even starting the writing process, this is why Simon finds it so rewarding to write articles about this important industry.

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