On The Front Lines of An ER
One of the most stressful yet rewarding medical professions that one can have is in emergency medicine. These are doctors on the front lines of an ER, and they have challenges that no other kind of doctor faces in the treatment of patients.
Unlike a primary care doctor who knows his patients, has their records handy for reference and can anticipate to some degree how to care for them, emergency physician jobs require that the attending ER doctor does not know who is going to walk through the doors or what their ailment is in advance. The ER is usually notified that an ambulance is within minutes of arrival. The EMT can call in and share what is going on with the patient based on what he or she knows about the immediate situation. This is usually some form of acute trauma that requires immediate care. Or, in other cases, a patient walks in off the street with some kind of trauma and may not even know the cause of the problem.
In either case, emergency physician jobs entail setting up a triage room or bed to assess the situation. If the patient can speak, they doctor will find out their medical history and what is wrong to the extent that the patient can describe it. They must do so quickly, ruling out a certain diagnosis based on the facts that are immediately before them. Sometimes the patient is not conscious or lucid, and then the doctor has to order tests or make decisions without knowing any extenuating circumstances, like medications or conditions that could impact the result of the patient’s care.
Many times, there are immediate, life-threatening situations that are a big part of emergency physician jobs, and these front line doctors literally have to saves lives through resuscitation or starting an IV, just to stabilize the patient before they can move forward. While these intense and stressful situations do occur on a regular basis, they also have to address the less life threatening problems of broken bones, lacerations and allergic reactions. So there is a spectrum of issues that they face each day, with no two days being the same.
It is a certain kind of personality that is best suited for emergency physician jobs. These doctors are board certified in this specialty, are expected to attend ongoing continuing education courses, and usually perform their residency in an ER. Aside from the paper certificate, they have the kind of personality that can handle the rigorous 8-12 hour schedule that may be nonstop, depending on what situations come into the ER that day. The personality traits include being patient, yet having the ability to act fast and adapt quickly. They have to become involved in a situation instantly, yet, once the patient is either admitted to the hospital or released, they have to let go of the responsibility and move on to the next case. They must be able to handle stress, yet not let it get to them.
Television glamorizes life in the ER. But the reality of being an ER doctor is more like a roller coaster ride that is a rewarding way to make a difference in people’s lives.
Here are some more resources to learn about life on the front lines of an ER:
- A Night in the Life of an Emergency Room Physician (radio interview)
- Video Blog: Balancing Life and Being an ER Doctor