Emergency Room Physician  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotEmergency room physicians are trained to work in an intense environment. They tend to be high-energy people. In the business, they're affectionately known as "adrenaline junkies."

This isn't the place for slow, methodical work. When the crunch comes, emergency room physicians have to make quick, educated guesses to save people's lives. But they also have to respond to the more mundane aspects of the emergency ward -- infants with high fevers, fingers accidentally severed in cooking accidents, children who have tumbled from jungle gyms.

dotIn the U.S., there has been a tremendous strain on emergency rooms in the last 10 years, as the health-care profession tries desperately to cut costs.

Ian Cummings, president of the Association of Emergency Physicians, predicts that ER medicine will undergo a phenomenal amount of change within the next 10 years. As money becomes even tighter, he expects emergency rooms will develop better ways of diagnosing patients, and even methods of caring for them faster.

dotTypically, smaller communities haven't always looked for physicians certified in emergency treatment, but that trend too is changing. The greatest need, as with all areas of medicine, will continue to be care for rural communities.

dotWomen continue to make up a minority of ER physicians, although that is changing, says Dr. Janet Nuth, an emergency physician.

Women are realizing that while stressful, ER work does offer benefits that a practice doesn't: regular work hours with no worries about being called out in the middle of the night.

"It's still a very male-dominated profession, but more and more women are going into it all the time. Ideally, it allows you to be at home with your own kids as much as possible," says Nuth. "You don't have to worry about being on call, or rushing to an emergency in the middle of the night."

At a Glance

Treat the wide variety of medical cases that show up in the ER

  • You need to be able to think on your feet
  • This job can be a mad adrenaline rush
  • But boredom and monotony are just as common