Emergency medicine subspecialties: what are your options?

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Students gear up for observation in the surgery department Being an emergency medicine physician can be an exciting career for those who like a fast-paced environment and are quick decision makers. Physicians in the emergency room provide immediate assessments and treatments for a large variety of conditions, illnesses and injuries. Once you become board certified in emergency medicine, you can also choose a subspecialty and narrow your focus even more.  Consider some of the following emergency medicine subspecialties:

Hospice and palliative care: Emergency medicine is often about saving a patient’s life. Hospice and palliative care focuses on providing care for patients in order to improve their quality of life. Palliative care physicians may treat patients with curable and terminal illnesses. Hospice usually focuses on caring for patients during the last six months of their life. Care and treatment are focused on improving a patient’s level of functioning and decreasing symptoms instead of a cure.

In order to become a hospice and palliative medicine specialist, a board certified emergency medicine doctor most complete a one-year fellowship in hospice and palliative medicine. After completion of the fellowship, physicians are eligible to take the exam to become board certified. Hospice and palliative care doctors may work in private practice, hospitals, pain management programs and hospice centers. 

Medical toxicology: Medical toxicologists focus on diagnosing, preventing and treating poisonings and adverse reactions to medications, biological agents and environmental toxins. Medical toxicologists may treat people who have a drug overdose, exposure to chemical hazards and ingestion of foodborne toxins. After becoming an emergency medicine specialist, a two-year toxicology fellowship is required to become board certified as a toxicologist. Toxicologists often work in emergency rooms, poison control centers, intensive care units, government agencies and forensic laboratories.

Pediatric emergency medicine: Treating children who are experiencing a medical emergency is not always the same as treating adults, which is why it has its own subspecialty. The cause of emergencies is often different in children, and the treatments and medications used may also differ from adults. Specialized training and knowledge are needed to provide the unique approach required for dealing with pediatric emergencies. After completing an emergency medicine residency, doctors must also complete a two-year pediatric emergency medicine fellowship to be eligible for board certification. A large percentage of pediatric emergency medicine physicians work in children’s trauma centers and hospitals.

Sports medicine: Sports medicine specialists play a vital role in keeping both novice and elite athletes healthy. Sports medicine doctors treat bone, muscle and joint injuries, which may occur as a result of athletic activity. Doctors are also trained to educate athletes on proper nutrition and injury prevention. They may also deal with issues related to substance abuse and sports psychology. Sports medicine doctors work closely with physical therapists to develop treatment plans for injured athletes. Doctors certified in emergency medicine who want to become sports medicine specialists need to complete a minimum of a one-year fellowship in sports medicine. Most sports medicine physicians work in rehabilitation centers, athletic organizations and in private practice.

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