Emergency Medicine – Is It For You?

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Considering A Career In Emergency Medicine?

Students observing surgery inside the operating theatre in Tanzania. The emergency department in any hospital is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is a clearly demarcated area of the hospital where patients and families of patients know they can go and receive urgent medical help without having to go through all of the usual registration formalities. It also acts as the hub of the acute hospital, linking the different specialties so that all specialists have immediate access to it when necessary. Emergency physicians liaise with these other specialties depending on the patient’s condition and the specific treatment that is required.

Working in the emergency department involves interacting with all kinds of people in every shift; from anxious patients and concerned relatives to ambulance crews, nursing staff, junior doctors and consultant colleagues. Very often, it also involves interacting with the police.

Nature Of The Work In The Emergency Department

Emergency Medicine (EM) is a relatively new but rapidly evolving specialty. Doctors working in emergency medicine use their knowledge and skills to recognise and treat a whole spectrum of acute, urgent and emergency aspects of injury and illness in all age groups at any hour of the day or night.

The emergency physician is often the first doctor to see the patient who is in need of urgent medical help. They are responsible for leading the team in the initial evaluation and resuscitation of patients. More often than not, when a patient is brought in, it can be unclear how seriously ill or injured the patient is and there is often no time for lengthy tests and diagnoses. A large part of being an emergency physician is the ability to work with limited information in uncertain situations. As an EP, you will have only your clinical knowledge and skills to help you identify priorities among multiple critically ill or injured patients. Dealing with this uncertainty, as well as relieving the symptoms in minor illnesses and reassuring patients and their families, is part of the joy and the challenge of emergency medicine.

Associated Sub-Specialties Of Emergency Medicine

Within the field of emergency medicine, there are several opportunities to develop special interests focusing on providing emergency and ongoing care to different groups of patients. Depending on your area of interest, you could choose to undertake additional training in sports and exercise medicine, intensive care medicine, observation medicine, wilderness medicine, acute medicine or toxicology. With sufficient experience, you could also branch off into medical education.

Within the emergency department, there are three main areas of activity: clinical work, teaching and management.

– Clinical work could range from attending to new patients and running trauma calls to supervising junior doctors.

– The emergency department is a fantastic place for medical students and junior doctors to learn generic skills and gain invaluable clinical experience. Teaching is done both in the emergency department and also through scheduled sessions.

– Management consultants are responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly in the ED. This may involve managing the rota, liaising with other medical specialists, writing clinical guidelines, ensuring patient safety and liaising with other pre-hospital services. 

The College Of Emergency Medicine in London is a leading institution in the UK offering a variety of training programmes and research facilities in emergency medicine.  

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