Emergency medicine physicians, sometimes called hospitalists, utilize their knowledge and training to diagnose and stabilize patients who have been admitted to emergency departments of hospitals.

Watch an Overview of Emergency Medicine

About Emergency Medicine

Emergency medicine specialists are generally found in emergency rooms throughout hospitals and are the first physicians to see and treat patients suffering from illnesses and injuries that must be treated immediately, such as traumatic injuries.

Emergency physicians diagnose the patient and work to resuscitate or stabilize patients - the extent of their care usually ends after stabilization. Once the patient is stable, they will be moved into the intensive care unit (ICU) or critical care unit (CCU), and be given treatment from a critical care specialist. In certain circumstances, the emergency physician may provide or assist in treatment in the ICU or CCU.

Aside from hospital emergency rooms, these physicians can also be found in a variety of pre-hospital locations and settings that require emergency medical services and initial medical treatments. More recently, emergency physicians can be found providing care in ICUs. Similar to physicians that practice critical care medicine, emergency medicine specialists are trained in life and organ support, but once the patient is stabilized they are usually removed from care under the emergency medicine physician.

Emergency Medicine Education & Training

Emergency medicine specialists must complete an undergraduate degree before entering medical school. After earning an MD or DO medical degree, the physician must enter a residency in emergency medicine. These residencies typically last three to four years, and provide the physician with specialized training in emergency medicine.

The first year of an emergency medicine residency is usually devoted to the broader aspects of emergency medicine, such as trauma and critical care, with the latter years providing additional experience and training in the various other facets of the specialty. Following residency training, the physician must enter into an emergency medicine fellowship.

During a fellowship, the physician is able to further specialize in a specific area of emergency medicine such as pediatric emergency medicine, palliative care, wilderness medicine, critical care medicine, emergency medical services, or sports medicine, among others. Many emergency medicine specialists will seek certification from the American Board of Emergency Medicine; emergency medicine physicians are required to hold a valid medical license from the state(s) in which they practice.