How to Become an RRT Nurse

11 Min Read Published July 23, 2024
How to become an RRT Nurse

A rapid response team nurse, or RRT nurse, is a highly-trained critical care nurse who responds to emergencies and helps prevent adverse patient clinical outcomes.

This article will review what RRT nurses do, how to become an RRT nurse, salary and career outlook, continuing education requirements, and more! 

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

What Is an RRT Nurse?

An RRT nurse is a rapid response nurse who works as a part of a medical emergency response team (MERT) that includes a range of clinicians with critical care expertise.  MERT members receive the most up-to-date first aid and resuscitation technique training.

Hospitals and other medical facilities employ RRT nurses to assist other nursing staff in emergencies who are not working in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or in other critical care areas, such as the emergency room (ER). 

RRT nurses work in the hospital or other healthcare settings. Their job is to get to patients who appear to be clinically deteriorating quickly. On non-critical care units, nurses may need to call a code-like alert called a “Rapid Response,” which communicates that they have a deteriorating patient who needs critical care help immediately to prevent them from getting worse. These could be patients with a heart attack, stroke, or other clinical deterioration requiring emergency care.

The fast critical care that an RRT nurse provides helps prevent adverse clinical outcomes and even deaths.

What Do RRT Nurses Do?

RRT nurses are called to help during a “rapid response” in a healthcare facility when a patient's condition deteriorates. 

RRT nurses also help to transport critical care patients between hospital units and can help provide a faster and safer transition for the patient.

RRT nurses most commonly work in hospitals and respond to alerts such as:

  • Code blues
  • Stroke alerts
  • Sepsis alerts
  • Rapid response calls

RRT nurse tasks include:

  • Communicating patient status with physicians
  • Closely monitoring vital signs
  • Starting IVs
  • Administering emergency medications 
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Performing emotional support to patients and families
  • Performing physical and neurological assessments
  • Educating patients and families and explaining treatment options
  • Maintaining medical records and communicating with other ancillary staff when needed
  • Performing CPR when needed

Conditions that an RRT nurse may be responsible for managing include:

  • Sepsis
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Respiratory distress
  • Acute coronary syndrome 

What Qualities Do You Need to Be Successful as an RRT Nurse?

Because of the high-stress nature of the RRT’s job, several essential qualities are required to perform the job well:

  • Excellent critical thinking skills 
  • Excellent assessment skills
  • Ability to thrive in a high-stress environment
  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to recognize and respond to a patient's imminent deterioration
  • Ability to work well on a team

How to Become an RRT Nurse

STEP ONE: Attend a Registered Nurse Program

You will need to start by completing an accredited nursing program. There are two pathways you can take:

You must ensure that your nursing program is accredited by one of the two accrediting bodies:

Accreditation is a process that evaluates nursing programs to ensure that they meet state and national nursing standards. This process shows that the nursing program is of the highest level of academic quality.

STEP TWO: Pass the NCLEX Exam and Earn RN Licensure

Upon graduating from your nursing program, you will want to obtain licensure as an RN in your state.

You need to apply to your state board of nursing to take the National Certification Licensing Examination (NCLEX). Each state has its own requirements for taking the exam. Make sure you contact your state to make sure you know what those requirements are.

STEP THREE: Gain Experience in an ICU 

Now is when you need to get your first job as a new grad nurse in a critical care area. Look for hospitals that offer new nurse graduate programs to train new nurses in the ICU and aim to get at least 3-5 years of experience.

You can also start in another specialty, work there for a year or two, and then transfer into a critical care area.

STEP FOUR: Earn Critical Care Certification

Nurses can specialize in various critical care areas. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN) offers several certification areas where nurses can demonstrate their knowledge in the following areas. 

There are several critical care certifications to choose from. The most common is certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) in adult, pediatric, or neonatal care.

STEP FIVE: Apply to Work as an RRT Nurse

Now that you have the training, experience, and certifications in your toolbox, you are ready to start applying for RRT nurse positions! Many certificate programs are available to help prepare you to become more knowledgeable as an RRT nurse. In addition, your facility will likely require you to complete more training and shadow another RRT nurse before you start on your own.

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

RRT Nurse Salary 

According to ZipRecruiter, as of November 2023, RRT nurses earn a median annual income of $86,737, with the highest earners making $156,000. These estimates are comparable to the average RN salary of $86,070 annually, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Since RRT nursing is a very niche specialty that requires additional certifications and training, many hospitals offer higher wages and increased benefits to attract and keep the best talent.

Your earnings will also depend on your level of nursing experience. For example, a nurse with five years or less of experience will earn less than an RRT nurse who has been working for 20 years. In most cases, you can expect an increase in pay for every year you work. 

Highest Paying States for RRT Nurses

According to ZipRecruiter, the top five highest-paying states for RRT nurses are:

  • New York: $87,600 annually or $42.12/hr
  • Vermont: $79,072 annually or $38.02/hr
  • Maine: $78,854 annually or $37.91/hr
  • Massachusetts: $77,174 annually or $37.10/hr
  • Nevada: $77,082 or $37.06/hr

Highest Paying Cities for RRT Nurses

According to ZipRecruiter, the top five highest-paying cities for RRT nurses are:

  • San Francisco, CA: $94,861 annually or $45.61/hr
  • San Jose, CA: $91,657 annually or $44.07/hr
  • Fremont, CA: $91,643 annually or $44.06/hr
  • Frankston, TX: $91,498 annually or $43.99/hr
  • Oakland, CA: $90,444 annually or $43.48/hr

What is the Career Outlook For a Rapid Response Team Nurse?

The career outlook for RRT nurses is good. The BLS reports that the job outlook for nursing of all specialties is expected to grow by about 6% between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the average for all professions.

Hospital administrators also recognize the need and benefits of having qualified Rapid Response teams to prevent adverse patient outcomes and save lives. 

One 2014 study showed that in-hospital mortality improved in six out of 10 acute care hospitals with a trained Rapid Response Team versus those without a Rapid Response Team. 

Continuing Education Requirements for RRT Nurses

Nurse CEU requirements vary depending on the state requirements where you work. Many states require a set number of continuing education units (CSUs) to renew RN licensure but do not require a separate number of CEUs to work specifically as an RRT nurse.

For example, in California, RNs must complete 30 contact hours of CEUs every two years to maintain licensure. Florida requires 27 CEU hours every two years. However, Maine requires 50 hours of CEU credits every two years.

RRT nurses must also stay current with state and facility-required necessary critical care certifications in order to maintain employment. Required certifications typically include the following:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
  • Trauma Nursing Core Courses (TNCC)
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN)

At this time, there are no specific mandatory RRT nurse certification requirements; however, that may change as hospitals create more Rapid Response Teams.

Where Can I Learn More about Rapid Response Team Nurses?

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

RRT Nurse FAQs

  • What Does RRT Stand For?

    • RRT stands for Rapid Response Team. A Rapid Response Team Nurse, or RRT nurse, is a highly-trained critical care nurse who responds to emergencies and helps prevent adverse patient clinical outcomes.
  • What is the Primary Purpose of RRT?

    • RRT nurses work as part of a medical emergency response team (MERT) that includes a range of clinicians with critical care expertise.  MERT members receive the most up-to-date first aid and resuscitation technique training. Hospitals and other medical facilities employ RRT nurses to assist other nursing staff in emergencies who are not working in an ICU or in other critical care areas, such as the emergency room.
  • What’s Harder – Nursing or Respiratory Therapy?

    • Respiratory therapy and nursing are both challenging careers that require many years of intense study. The prerequisite courses to get accepted into each program are the same. However, some medical professionals who have been through both programs and worked in healthcare say that nursing was more challenging.
  • What Does Rapid Response in a Hospital Mean?

    • A rapid response in a hospital means a patient is demonstrating imminent clinical decline and requires immediate help to prevent an adverse outcome. The goal of a Rapid Response is to help more patients survive.

 

Sarah Jividen
RN, BSN
Sarah Jividen
Nurse.org Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

Read More From Sarah
Go to the top of page