What Is an ER Doctor?
An emergency medicine doctor or “ER doctor” typically works in an emergency department in a hospital or an urgent care facility. ER doctor’s main job is to first stabilize a patient. After a patient becomes stable, the doctor can then pinpoint the source of the injury and begin the treatment process.
An ER doctor treats a wide variety of issues from acute medical problems to larger, traumatic injuries. It is the final call of the ER doctor whether or not the emergency treatment is sufficient enough for the injury at hand, or if further appointments should be made with specialists.
The scope of treatment an emergency medical doctor provides is vast. Their demographics include women and children of any age with illnesses at every stage of severity and progression. An ER doctor will be very familiar with the treatment of issues in the categories of pulmonology, cardiology, neurology, dermatology, psychiatry, and many others. Typically their job is to assess the injury or illness to produce one of two outcomes.
With smaller, less serious cases they will treat a patient and discharge them. In more serious, chronic situations, the ER doctor will refer a patient to a specialist for more in-depth, long term treatment. In the most severe cases of trauma such as heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening injuries, an ER doctor will begin treatment instantly. Life or death situations present themselves to doctors in emergency units on a daily basis. Many times an ER doctor will find themselves as the only doctor present on a shift in an emergency unit. These situations can be very hectic. It is very important that the doctor is able to quickly triage patients and separate cases based on severity.
The most life-threatening cases will be a top priority. Patients are triaged and seen in an order based on the importance of the medical emergency. If you’ve ever experienced a long wait in an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room, chances are your illness or injury wasn’t as serious as others patients that may have been seen before you.
Different Types of Emergency Doctors
Normally ER doctors are the most common types of practicing physicians in the category of emergency medicine. However, there are normally two distinct positions available for practicing physicians that enter the field of emergency medicine. One example is an orthopedic trauma surgeon. There are several different types of trauma surgeons. Let’s examine the differences between the position of trauma surgeon and actual ER doctor.
Difference in Skills and Job Demands
Although the goals for the end result of a patient are the same when it comes to a trauma surgeon and ER doctor, the job description is what separates them. These jobs require two entirely different skill sets. An ER doctor will visit each and every patient that walks through the doors of an emergency room or urgent care facility. Regardless of the injury, each patient will be seen at some point by the ER doctor in order to classify them and determine the best course of treatment.
In cases of severe trauma, an ER doctor will intubate a patient, begin blood transfusions, or order rounds of testing. The ER doctors job is to stabilize a patient.
A trauma surgeon typically is not stationed in the emergency room at all times. If patients fall into certain emergency categories, a trauma surgeon will be called in to perform an emergency procedure. Some of the situations that require a trauma surgeon may include:
- Low blood pressure after trauma
- Gunshot wounds
- Imaplement and severe lacerations
If a patient enters the emergency room and the extent of the injuries are already known to be quite severe, the trauma surgeon may join the ER doctor from the start of the treatment. If a patient is admitted for their trauma and surgery is required, the trauma surgeon becomes their primary care provider for the visit. They will assume all care and order return visits if they are required.
Differences in Educational Demands
ER doctors and surgeons undergo the same level of education throughout their college career. The two will follow the same path all the way through medical school until they graduate. The differences in training do not arrive until after they graduate. Upon entering their residency, the two will take a completely different path when it comes to their hands-on training. An ER doctor will undergo a three or four year residency program. Upon completion, typically they will be ready to enter the workfield.
The demands for a trauma surgeon are much higher. Any surgeon will undergo a five or six year residency regardless of the type of surgery they decide to specialize in. Surgeons electing to specialize in trauma will incur an additional one or two years critical care and trauma training.
Contact and Journey With Patients
Another critical difference in the job description is the contact an ER doctor or trauma surgeon will have with patients. Normally an ER doctor will see the patient during the initial emergency room visit. Upon their discharge or transfer, the ER doctor’s interaction with that patient is over.
A trauma surgeon will often complete a much longer journey with each respective patient. A trauma surgeon will often follow a patient well after the surgical process. It is not uncommon for a trauma surgeon to continue their interaction with a patient all the way through to the rehabilitation process.
Practice Opportunities for an ER Doctor
Once a student receives their degree and completes their residency, there are several options available when it comes to practice models. At this stage, an emergency doctor will decide what type of organization they will work for.
There are three main types of organizations a doctor can decide to work for.
- Private group
- Corporate group
Private or Democratic Group
Many private groups offer the potential for a partnership in the long term for a doctor. This means that eventually a doctor could become part owner of the practice. Other types of organizations offer the option for financial equity and the ability to make important decisions in the interest of the practice.
A private group is also known as a democratic group. Doctors have the opportunity to have a major voice in the organization and receive a vote when it comes to major decisions. With ownership as an option in a democratic group, a doctor can benefit from the organizations success. Democratic organizations often have the highest compensation and profit available for doctors.
Different medical organizations tend to overlap. Corporate groups are sometimes seen as democratic or private groups due to the fact that they are often owned by physicians or a group of physicians. The major difference between the two is normally the size of the emergency departments the two operate. While a private or democratic group would normally operate several emergency departments (upwards of 10), a corporate would typically only be responsible for one or two.
The amount of hospital employees has been on an upward trend in recent years. Doctors who work as employees in a hospital setting have varying degrees of political and financial equity depending on the situation. Hospital positions normally share characteristics more similar to a corporate group. A doctor normally will see his or her position and authority rise with their years employed by the hospital.
One bonus included with a hospital position is job security. Hospitals normally want to avoid situations of liability or wrongful termination, leading to a more secure position by an emergency room doctor. It is often much easier for a board of directors in a corporate group to make the decision to remove a doctor from the schedule than it would be for a hospital to terminate a physician completely.
The type of organization a doctor works for is one of the most important decisions they will face while starting their career. It is important to consider your future and what path you see yourself on before making a final choice on the type of organization to join. Our pre-med advisors can provide you with more information pertaining to this category. Internship programs may offer information to help you decide on what organization is best to strive towards.
How to Become an Emergency Room Doctor
In the next section, we will examine the steps required in college to become an ER doctor. Read on as we break down in depth what you can expect from each year of school on the journey to receiving your degree.
Earn Your Bachelors Degree
- Health Care Systems
- Biology 1
- Biology 2
- Calculus 1
- Chemistry 1
- Chemistry 2
- Humanities Requirement
- Public Health
- Anatomy and Physiology 1
- Anatomy and Physiology 2
- Organic Chemistry 1
- Organic Chemistry 2
- Basic Skills for Healthcare
- Humanities Requirements
- Healthcare Communication
- Healthcare Professional Writing
- Genetics and Microbiology 1
- Physics 1
- Physics 2
- Problems in Healthcare
- Healthcare Research
- Biochemistry 1
- Humanities Requirements
- Health in the U.S.
- Health Education and Planning
- Healthcare Management
- Health Policy
- Remaining Electives
Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
Biology and Chemical Foundations of Living Systems
- 59 questions (multiple choice)
- 95 minutes allowed
- Tests for biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- 59 questions (multiple choice)
- 95 minutes allowed
- Tests for biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- 59 questions (multiple choice)
- 95 minutes allowed
- Tests for introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
- 52 questions (multiple choice)
- 90 minutes allowed
- Tests for reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences
Earn a Medical Degree (4 Years)
Medical school consists of four years of studying the basics of science and taking part in clinical rotations. These are real hands-on clinical that take place in a legitimate healthcare setting.
- Cells and Tissues
- Molecular Foundations of Medicine
- Applied Biochemistry
- Disease Mechanisms and Development
- Cardiac Life Support
- The Nervous System
- Gross Anatomy of Head and Neck
- Pulmonary Systems
- Renal/Genitourinary Systems
- Gastrointestinal Systems
- Skin/Endocrine Systems
- Reproduction and Women’s Health
- Behavior and the Brain
- Systemic Diseases
- Clinical Clerkship
Year 3 and 4
- Internal Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Family Medicine
- Critical Care
- Ambulatory Medicine
- Researches, Reflections and Advances in Patient Care
Pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)
Every state requires a physician to pass a standardized exam. Requirements may vary from state to state. For all potential ER doctors, it is mandatory they pass the USMLE exam. The USMLE exam is sponsored by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).
Complete a Three to Four Year Residency
An ER doctor’s residency must be completed in a facility that is approved by the Residency Review Committee.
There are over 9,400 graduate medical education programs in the United States. The field is highly competitive, and acceptance is based on academic performance and and recommendations by medical school professors.
Earn an Emergency Medicine Certification
Once a residency is successfully completed, the Emergency Medicine Certification is obtained by successfully completing a written and oral exam. Every ten years recertification is required to continue holding the certification.
Depending on whether or not a doctor decides to take up a specialty sector of emergency medicine, there may be continuing education required. There are different boards that are included in special categories of emergency medicine such as American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine and American Board of Medical Specialtie that require maintenance board certification.
Most medical schools offer a department of continuing medical education in departments such as emergency medicine that offer courses based on this model.
Fellowships may be required if an ER doctor takes up a special branch of emergency medicine such as medical toxicology, pediatric emergency medicine, or sports medicine. These also carry specialty board certifications and maintenance requirements.
Another added benefit to becoming an ER doctor is the ability to travel. For the adventurer or roaming type, there are many different opportunities to study and work abroad in many different countries. There is a constant need for medical expertise in countries where advancements and certified doctors are not in abundance. This can be exciting and very fulfilling in the sense that you get to travel and help people in need. Our website contains and extensive section about traveling and studying abroad, as well as working in other countries.
The road to becoming an ER doctor requires extreme dedication, a love for your craft, and a leap of faith. Every decision you make along the way will have lifelong repercussions. Rarely do future doctors make these decisions alone.
We heavily advise against making these vital decisions without some sort of guidance or advice. The chances of you sticking to the decisions you make for the long haul increase drastically with some type of guidance.
We offer several programs for future doctors to help them along the way. Aside from mentoring and studies abroad, we also offer several different internships.
We invite you read up on and apply to our healthcare internship program. At International Medical Aid we are confident that we can help you achieve your goals with our mentorship experts. Let us help you walk the right path!