Emergency medicine is an integral part of the healthcare industry and one of the highest-paying medical specialties. If you want to work as an ER doctor, your medical school education should include a combination of broad clinical training and specialized coursework and clinical rotations in emergency medicine. You can often begin preparing for this specialty as early as your first year of medical school by taking courses in the foundations of emergency medicine or by shadowing a physician in clinical practice.
Clinical Experience in a Breadth of Specialties
Doctors in other specialties may treat only certain kinds of patient populations. Some physicians treat only children or only adults or just the elderly. They may treat only patients with specific concerns, like heart disease, musculoskeletal injuries or problems of the gastrointestinal tract.
As an emergency room doctor, you treat patients belonging to all age groups and suffering from every possible kind of medical emergency. It’s important to know about the different emergencies that can arise in every medical specialty, according to the American Medical Association. That means none of your coursework in the classroom or your clinical experiences will be wasted, because you need a broad base of knowledge to tap into when you work in the emergency department.
One reason medical students complete clinical rotations in different specialties is to decide what they want to do. Your rotations may cement your decision to be an ER doctor, change your mind or prompt you to consider a different subspecialty within emergency medicine.
Courses and Rotations in Emergency Medicine
Some medical schools offer a robust selection of classes pertaining to emergency medicine. Course options at the University of California San Francisco include introduction to emergency medicine, foundations of emergency medicine, emergency medicine and acute care, research in emergency medicine, emergency medicine ultrasound and bedside ultrasound. Classes like wilderness medicine, disaster medicine and clinical toxicology and pharmacology may also fall under the category of emergency medicine. Some institutions, like the University of Minnesota Medical School, offer advanced emergency medicine courses, designed for students planning a career in the specialty, that cover subspecialties in emergency medicine and preparation for residency and future career paths.
Many of these courses are really clinical rotation experiences or clerkships, but others are laboratory courses, lecture courses, conferences, seminars or research opportunities. Some emergency medicine classes are electives intended to allow first-year and second-year medical students to advance their knowledge of the field of emergency medicine before the time for traditional clinical rotations comes. Others are rotations and clerkships suitable for students in their third or fourth year of medical school. Although not all medical schools offer emergency medicine courses for medical students in their first two years, many institutions will encourage, support or facilitate shadowing experiences that allow a student to observe and learn from a physician.
In an emergency medicine elective rotation, students may cover topics in both adult and pediatric emergency medicine. They learn to perform physical examinations, develop a differential diagnosis and conduct laceration repairs, splinting, sonography assessment and basic orthopedic procedures, according to the University of Arizona Health Sciences College of Medicine Tucson. In addition to being trained by medical residents, fellows and attending doctors in the clinical setting of a real emergency department, students may practice their skills in settings such as suture labs, eye labs, EKG labs and other simulation labs.
Long before you graduate medical school, you need to begin thinking about life after medical school. Typically, newly graduated doctors complete training in a yearlong internship, followed by a residency and, if they want to specialize further, a fellowship. Students who are serious about a career in emergency medicine should line up their first clinical rotation in this specialty early on – if not during their third year of school, then early in their fourth year, the American Medical Association reported. The reason an early start to your clinical training in this field is so important is because, if you choose to do your residency in emergency medicine, you will likely need to do a few rotations in the specialty, according to the American Medical Association.
Physicians must complete three years of specialized training before they can qualify to become board-certified, according to the American Board of Emergency Medicine.