The Top Eight Reasons I Chose To Become An Emergency Medicine Physician

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Growing up with two parents who were at the frontline of emergency medicine working as EMTs, I think I always knew in my heart that I wanted to become an emergency medicine physician. However, it wasn’t until halfway through my third year of medical school that I discovered that EM was truly my passion. Here are the top eight reasons why I chose a career as an emergency medicine physician:

    1. Flexible schedule

    This is definitely one of the benefits of the specialty. For the most part, in EM we work scheduled shifts, so your schedule is pretty predictable. This makes it convenient to fit in other important aspects of life, such as family time, exercising, studying, and sleeping. For most programs, shifts range from 8-12 hours with 18-24 shifts/month (as a resident), depending on the program. The downside (to some people), is that EM will likely require one to work some overnights, weekends, and holidays. However, in my opinion, the flexible, predictable schedule and set hours are well worth it!

    2. Breadth of cases

    When I started medical school, I was certain that I wanted to become a primary care family medicine physician. However, after completing my third year of medical school, I realized that I was looking for something different. While I still enjoy primary care medicine (and do see plenty of it in the ER!), I also love the fast paced environment, variety of cases, traumas, and other emergent conditions that come along with working in the ER. What I find particularly exciting and rewarding about emergency medicine is this dynamic environment. In one room will be a patient with abdominal pain, in another a severely depressed patient, while other rooms will have patients with lacerations, headaches, nausea, etc. Meanwhile, two patients from an MVC will be rolling into trauma rooms. It’s definitely safe to say that one will never get bored with a career in EM!

    3. Procedures

    One of my favorite parts of EM is the chance to “get my hands dirty” nearly every shift with the abundance of opportunities to do procedures. From doing ultrasounds, to placing central lines, to suturing, to inserting chest tubes, there is quite the variety of procedures available in the ER!

    4. Research Opportunities

    Before starting residency in emergency medicine, I wasn’t aware of the many opportunities for research in this field. While opportunities may vary from one institution to another, in general, EM is a great field for research. My particular program requires all residents to complete a research project before graduating. However, there are countless avenues to participate in research, from case studies, to literature/database reviews, to physically interacting with patients. My institution actually has a research team that works to enroll patients in studies while in the emergency department.

    5. Fellowship Opportunities

    Many people are surprised to find out about the abundance of fellowship opportunities available to EM trained physicians. Opportunities include primary care, sports medicine, pediatric EM, ultrasound, toxicology, wilderness medicine, EMS, hyperbaric and undersea medicine, palliative care, critical care, administration/medical education, international EM, and more!

    6. Diverse patient population

    The ER is one of the few places where every possible patient population will mix. Unlike some private practice clinics or hospitals, everyone is welcome to receive care in the ER, whether they have insurance/the ability to pay or not. Patients who are young, old, wealthy, impoverished, different races, different educations, ect. all receive care in the ER. Having the opportunity to be a physician for patients from all walks of life is truly a privilege.

    7. Opportunities for growth 

    The ER is a place of constant learning! I’m always amazed at how much I continue to learn after each shift. As a specialty, EM constantly requires one to learn more, improve skills, and advance knowledge. What really drew me to the specialty was the opportunity to truly become a lifelong student.

    8. Lasting Impact

    Most people who arrive in the ER are having one of the worst days of their lives. Working in the ER, we treat patients who are incredibly ill or injured. It is truly an honor to be the physician who gets to take care of patients and families when in their time of greatest need.

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