How Competitive is an ER Travel Nurse Salary?

ER Travel Nurse Salary

By Brook Jillings, Contributor

Nurses who thrive in high-stress environments have a few options when it comes to choosing their specialty, and working in emergency care or the operating room are often at the top of the list. Although these two positions involve a similar skill set, there are other factors, such as salary potential, that should be considered when deciding which is the best fit for you. Learn more about the differences between the roles of these two specialties and how competitive an ER travel nurse salary is when compared to the pay for a travel nurse that works in the OR.

ER Nurse and OR Nurse Differences

ER nurses and OR nurses both perform duties that involve high-risk situations and require intense focus. Although some of their professional responsibilities are shared, there are a few important differences that should be noted.

OR nurse responsibilities

An OR nurse, or perioperative nurse, is responsible for caring for patients at every stage of surgery. This includes operative preparation, assisting the surgeon during the procedure and post-operative care. These duties require knowledge of surgical tools and their functions, complication prevention and how to operate specialized equipment that may be relevant to the procedure being performed.

These nurses also work closely with the rest of the surgical team to create a plan of care for patients preparing for surgery and keep surgeons updated on the condition of patients who are recovering after surgery. RNs who wish to work in the operating room can either assist as a scrub nurse, working as direct support to the surgeon or work as a circulating nurse, maintaining supply stock and working outside of the sterile field.

ER nurse responsibilities

ER nurses are responsible for quickly assessing patients coming into the emergency room, determining the urgency at which care is needed. They are also actively involved in patient care by assisting the attending physician, administering ordered medications, monitoring medical equipment and interacting with the patients and their families. Although these duties are universal to general RN positions, ER nurses must perform in a high-pressure environment and be able to adjust quickly between low- and high-risk patients. Discharge of emergency room patients is also handled by the ER nurse, and this task comes with the responsibility of ensuring the patient understands any instructions for follow-up care.

How Does an ER Travel Nurse Salary Compare?

When comparing an ER nurse's salary to that of an OR nurse, travel salary potential can be significantly different than what is offered for a permanent position. The average hourly wage listed on for an RN in the ER is $30.88 with a range of $23.74 to $44.64. Those working in the OR receive around $32.46 per hour with a range of $24.64 to $45.14. Despite OR nurses receiving slightly more on average for permanent placement, an ER nurse salary is still competitive in comparison.

For traveling nurses, the earnings potential often includes additional pay to cover meals, housing and other incidentals. Jobs listed on Travel Nursing demonstrate that OR nurses can expect an average range of $29 to $48 per hour. The range for an ER travel nurse salary, on the other hand, falls around $26.50 to $51 hourly. Although this range is more expansive, it shows that travel ER nurses can enjoy wages that are more competitive than traveling OR nurses, depending on the RN's experience and the details of the assignment.

With these comparisons, it's clear that an ER travel nurse salary can be very competitive with that of an OR traveling nurse. If you're ready to take the next step and take your skills on the road, check out the open travel positions available on Travel Nursing. 

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