What does an Emergency Physician do?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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An emergency physician is a doctor trained to treat severe wounds and perform life saving techniques in situations where immediate medical care is required. This type of doctor may be assigned to an emergency room in a hospital, or may be part of a lifesaving crew that is dispatched directly to the site of an injury or accident. This career choice requires that qualified individuals have completed a four year post-secondary education and four years in a medical program, as well as a residency in a hospital or doctor's office. Emergency training certifications are also available and often encouraged by hospitals, but are not always necessary for employment.

These types of doctors are trained in many different kinds of trauma care, such as advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and advanced airway management. They are also skilled in setting bone fractures, stitching wounds, diagnosing a variety of viruses and infections, and can perform minor surgery. Some injuries which may require extensive surgery or specialized care can be diagnosed by an emergency physician and then passed along to the proper medical facilities. In many circumstances, emergency personnel can administer the initial life saving treatments which a patient needs to immediately survive, so that a specialist or surgeon can take over later and begin more sustaining forms of care.


In the US, an emergency physician is typically stationed in the emergency room of a hospital. Multiple doctors staff one emergency ward so that care for injured patients is available at all times of the day and night. Patients are generally admitted based on the severity of their injuries. This type of triage sorting may be performed by the attending physicians, but is more commonly handled by registered nurses (RNs).

In the UK and other European countries, emergency physicians are not confined to the trauma unit of the hospital. They are often dispatched to the accident location with other emergency medical personnel so that injuries may be treated immediately on site. This allows life saving techniques to be performed by a trained physician before the patient reaches the hospital.

Individuals interested in becoming an emergency physician must obtain a graduate degree in medicine and may wish to pursue specialized emergency care certifications. Following the completion of their four year medical school, students can apply for a residency or internship in a hospital. They must also be licensed to practice medicine by the country in which they wish to work. This type of career requires flexible hours and the ability to work well under stress in a fast paced environment.


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