Emergency Room Physician

The Emergency Department Physician: A Critical Role in Saving Lives

Long celebrated in movies and television shows, the emergency department (ED) or emergency room physician is a critical and valuable component in saving people’s lives. ED physicians perform many roles as they deliver emergency healthcare to some of the people who need it most – those injured in severe vehicle crashes, falls, and many other incidents as well as those with serious or life-threatening illnesses. Karl Simon, a certified Physician Assistant in the Houston, Texas area, has worked in emergency rooms and with ED physicians for nearly his entire career. He knows that these highly-qualified individuals represent the very best in healthcare. 

What Does an ED Physician Do?

According to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical School, an emergency department physician is tasked with treating every patient that comes into the ER for help. ED physicians perform initial assessments and diagnostics, order testing, and start lifesaving procedures to stabilize those with severe illnesses or injuries. Physicians work in close contact with other healthcare professionals such as trauma surgeons, nurses, and respiratory therapists. If a patient needs further treatment, including surgery, the ED physician also facilitates admission referrals.

What Training Do ED Physicians Have?

Just like a physician assistant, an ED physician completes medical school, then specializes in emergency care during their residencies. A residency for an ED physician may last as long as four years, and may even last longer if an additional subspecialty is pursued. Common subspecialties – sometimes referred to as fellowships — include:

  • Medical Toxicology
  • Pediatric Emergency Medicine 
  • Critical Care
  • Sports Medicine
  • Disaster Medicine

Initial work during the ED residency consists of shadowing experienced physicians and gaining a thorough understanding of triage diagnostics. From there, physicians will take on their own patient loads under the guidance of an experienced healthcare professional, who will assess their diagnoses and treatment plans for each patient. The workload can vary, with as many as five shifts in a week and a range of patient types. Trauma patients typically get priority; an ED physician must be flexible and able to conduct several operations at once. 

Certification in Emergency Medicine

The American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) offers a certification program for ED physicians who have completed their initial training and residencies. Accredited through the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine, eligible physicians must:

  • Have completed a minimum of 7000 hours of work in an emergency department over the past five years.
  • Completed an accredited residency in one of the primary medical care areas.
  • Meet stringent requirements regarding professional ethics, licensing, and documentation of experience. 

ABPS certification represents mastery of the complex ED physician role. While this certification is not always required by all healthcare facilities, it can be a valuable step toward a long and successful career for physicians. 

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