Is EM right for me?

Updated September, 2016

While there is no substitute for doing an EM rotation and talking to practicing Emergency Physicians (EP's), there are a few characteristics of the clinical work and lifestyle that may help you decide if this specialty is something you might be interested in.

What is the clinical work like?

  • Undifferentiated patients - The ED has developed into the diagnostic center for many hospitals and communities.  Emergency Physicians (EP) are often the first provider to assess a patient.
  • Quick rapport - They need to rapidly establish trust with patients and families they have never met before.
  • Critical decision making - The acuity of the ED requires physicians to make management decisions based on their clinical assessments, often without the full range of diagnostic testing.
  • Multi-tasking - This may be better described as "distracted decision-making" as EP's need to rapidly shift their focus from patient to patient and weather a variety of distractions without letting their decision-making be affected.
  • Procedure oriented - EP's must be experts at Resuscitation and Airway Management, and be able to perform a variety of other procedures ranging from the basics like suturing and vascular access to life-saving procedures like pericardiocentesis and thoracotomy.
  • Safety net - No patient is too poor, too non-compliant, too old, too young, or too pregnant to be seen in an Emergency Department or by an Emergency Physician.
This may be better summed up by a quote from Joe Lex, (@JoeLex5), the Godfather of FOAMed, "Emergency Medicine is the most interesting 15 minutes of every other specialty".

What is the lifestyle of an Emergency Physician like?

  • ED shifts are a sprint, not a marathon - You will be at the hospital for a fixed amount of time, you will work really hard, and then you will go home to spend time doing the other things you love.
  • Shifts vary in length - This depends on the ED where you work, with 8 - 12 hour shifts being the most common. There are ED's where the physicians work 24 hour shifts.
  • You will work during the day and at night.  You will work weekends and holidays. - No job is perfect.
  • You will not take call for a panel of patients, though it is not uncommon to have someone on back-up call in the event of illness or disaster.  Not having a panel of patients means that you also lose some of the patient continuity found in other specialties.

Want some other thoughts and opinions?

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