Emergency medicine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Emergency medicine
Schematic diagram of a normal sinus rhythm for a human heart as seen on an ECG.
Focus Acute illness and injury
Significant diseases
Significant tests
Specialist Emergency physician

Emergency medicine is a medical specialty involving care for undifferentiated, unscheduled patients with acute illnesses or injuries that require immediate medical attention. While not usually providing long-term or continuing care, emergency physicians undertake acute investigations and interventions to resuscitate and stabilize patients. Emergency physicians generally practice in hospital emergency departments, pre-hospital settings via emergency medical services, and intensive care units.


Emergency physician
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Degrosa, left, an emergency room doctor with the 86th Medical Group, performs a simulated exploratory laparotomy in-flight surgery aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during 140117-F-RW714-777.jpg
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Education required
Medical degree

Emergency medicine has evolved to treat conditions that pose a threat to life, limb, or have a significant risk of morbidity. In the words of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine:

Emergency Medicine is a medical specialty—a field of practice based on the knowledge and skills required for the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute and urgent aspects of illness and injury affecting patients of all age groups with a full spectrum of undifferentiated physical and behavioral disorders. It further encompasses an understanding of the development of pre-hospital and in-hospital emergency medical systems and the skills necessary for this development.[1]

The field of emergency medicine encompasses care involving the acute care of internal medical and surgical conditions. Emergency physicians are tasked with seeing a large number of patients, treating their illnesses and arranging for disposition—either admitting them to the hospital or releasing them after treatment as necessary. The emergency physician requires a broad field of knowledge and advanced procedural skills often including surgical procedures, trauma resuscitation, advanced cardiac life support and advanced airway management. They must have the skills of many specialists—the ability to resuscitate a patient (critical care medicine), manage a difficult airway (anesthesia), suture a complex laceration (plastic surgery), reduce (set) a fractured bone or dislocated joint (orthopedic surgery), treat a heart attack (cardiology), manage strokes (neurology), work-up a pregnant patient with vaginal bleeding (obstetrics and gynecology), stop a bad nosebleed (ENT), place a chest tube (cardiothoracic surgery), and to conduct and interpret x-rays and ultrasounds (radiology).[citation needed]

Emergency medicine is distinct from urgent care, which refers to immediate healthcare for non-emergency medical issues. In fact, urgent care has its roots in emergency medicine when, in the 1970s, physicians extended hours of practice to focus on non-emergency issues.[2]

Physicians specializing in emergency medicine can enter fellowships to receive credentials in subspecialties such as palliative care, critical-care medicine, medical toxicology, wilderness medicine, pediatric emergency medicine, sports medicine, disaster medicine, tactical medicine, ultrasound, pain medicine, pre-hospital emergency medicine, or undersea and hyperbaric medicine.[citation needed]

A U.S. government report found there were 119 million emergency department visits in 2006, an increase of 36% from 1996. During this same ten-year period of increased usage, the number of emergency departments decreased, from 4,019 to 3,833 and the rate of emergency department visits per 100 people in the U.S. rose from 34.2 to 40.5.[3]

Work patterns[edit]

Most emergency physicians staff hospital emergency departments in shifts, a job structure necessitated by the 24/7 nature of the emergency department. The employment arrangement of emergency physician practices are either private (with a co-operative group of doctors staffing an emergency department under contract), institutional (physicians with an independent contractor relationship with the hospital), corporate (physicians with an independent contractor relationship with a third-party staffing company that services multiple emergency departments), or governmental (for example, when working within military services, public health services, veterans' benefit systems or other government agencies).[citation needed]

Patterns vary significantly between different countries and regions. In the United States, more than half of emergency physicians report high levels of career satisfaction. Although career satisfaction has remained high among emergency physicians, concern about burnout is substantial.[4] In the United Kingdom, all consultants in emergency medicine work in the National Health Service and there is little scope for private emergency practice. In other countries like Australia, New Zealand or Turkey, emergency medicine specialists are almost always salaried employees of government health departments and work in public hospitals, with pockets of employment in private or non-government aeromedical rescue or transport services, as well as some private hospitals with emergency departments; they may be supplemented or backed by non-specialist medical officers, and visiting general practitioners. Rural emergency departments may be headed by general practitioners alone, sometimes with non-specialist qualifications in emergency medicine.[citation needed]


During the French Revolution, after seeing the speed with which the carriages of the French flying artillery maneuvered across the battlefields, French military surgeon Dominique Jean Larrey applied the idea of ambulances, or "flying carriages", for rapid transport of wounded soldiers to a central place where medical care was more accessible and effective. Larrey manned ambulances with trained crews of drivers, corpsmen and litter-bearers and had them bring the wounded to centralized field hospitals, effectively creating a forerunner of the modern MASH units. Dominique Jean Larrey is sometimes called the father of emergency medicine for his strategies during the French wars.[citation needed]

Emergency medicine as an independent medical specialty is relatively young. Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, hospital emergency departments (EDs) were generally staffed by physicians on staff at the hospital on a rotating basis, among them general surgeons, internists, psychiatrists, and dermatologists. Physicians in training (interns and residents), foreign medical graduates and sometimes nurses also staffed the ED. Emergency medicine was born as a specialty in order to fill the time commitment required by physicians on staff to work in the increasingly chaotic EDs of the time.[citation needed]

During this period, groups of physicians began to emerge who had left their respective practices in order to devote their work completely to the ED. In the UK in 1952, Maurice Ellis was appointed as the first "casualty consultant" at Leeds General Infirmary. In 1967, the Casualty Surgeons Association was established with Maurice Ellis as its first President.[5] In the US, the first of such groups was headed by Dr. James DeWitt Mills in 1961 who, along with four associate physicians; Dr. Chalmers A. Loughridge, Dr. William Weaver, Dr. John McDade, and Dr. Steven Bednar at Alexandria Hospital, Virginia, established 24/7 year-round emergency care, which became known as the "Alexandria Plan".[citation needed]

It was not until the establishment of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the recognition of emergency medicine training programs by the AMA and the AOA, and in 1979 a historical vote by the American Board of Medical Specialties that emergency medicine became a recognized medical specialty in the US.[6] The first emergency medicine residency program in the world was begun in 1970 at the University of Cincinnati[7] and the first Department of Emergency Medicine at a US medical school was founded in 1971 at the University of Southern California.[8]

In 1990 the UK's Casualty Surgeons Association changed its name to the British Association for Accident and Emergency Medicine, and subsequently became the British Association for Emergency Medicine (BAEM) in 2004. In 1993, an intercollegiate Faculty of Accident and Emergency Medicine (FAEM) was formed as a "daughter college" of six medical royal colleges in England and Scotland to arrange professional examinations and training. In 2005, the BAEM and the FAEM were merged to form the College of Emergency Medicine, now the Royal College of Emergency Medicine,[9] which conducts membership and fellowship examinations and publishes guidelines and standards for the practise of emergency medicine.[10]



Emergency physicians will routinely begin investigations and initiate some treatments in parallel, subsequently tailoring their treatment to the patient's needs as the clinical context becomes clearer.

At the other extreme, it falls to emergency physicians to perform life-, limb- or sight-saving procedures that by their very nature cannot await review by another specialist. These can include resuscitative thoracotomy; escharotomy; cricothyrotomy; lateral canthotomy to treat orbital compartment syndrome; limb amputation to extricate an entrapped patient; and hysterotomy in the setting of maternal cardiac arrest.[11]



In Argentina, the SAE (Sociedad Argentina de Emergencias) is the main organization of Emergency Medicine. There are a lot of residency programs. Also is possible to reach the certification with a two-year postgraduate university course after a few years of ED background.

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

The specialist medical college responsible for Emergency Medicine in Australia and New Zealand is the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).[12] The training program is nominally seven years in duration, after which the trainee is awarded a Fellowship of ACEM, conditional upon passing all necessary assessments.[13]

  • Basic Training (24 months): Pre-vocational hospital rotation experience, which usually consists of the PGY1 internship year and PGY2 year as a junior medical officer.[14]
  • Provisional Training (12 months): 6 months of Emergency Medicine training, plus 6 months of elective experience. Trainees must pass the ACEM Primary Examination before the end of this period, which tests basic and clinical science knowledge of trainees.[15]
  • Advanced Training (48 months): 30 months of Emergency Medicine training, 6 months of intensive care and/or anaesthesia training, and 18 months of elective training relevant to Emergency Medicine. Trainees must pass the ACEM Fellowship Examinations in order to qualify as an Emergency Medicine specialist at the end of this period.[16]

Dual fellowship programs also exist for Paediatric Medicine (in conjunction with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians) and Intensive Care Medicine (in conjunction with the College of Intensive Care Medicine). These programs nominally add one or more years to the ACEM training program.[17]

For medical doctors not (and not wishing to be) specialists in Emergency Medicine but have a significant interest or workload in emergency departments, the ACEM provides non-specialist certificates and diplomas.[18] The EM Certificate requires minimum three years of postgraduate experience as a medical doctor, completion of minimum six months supervised training in Emergency Medicine, and pass marks in formal examinations.[19] The EM Diploma requires attainment of an EM Certificate (or equivalent training and experience), completion of a further 12 months of supervised training in Emergency Medicine and 6 months supervised training in clinical anaesthesia or intensive care, and pass marks in examinations.[20]


The two routes to emergency medicine certification can be summarized as follows:

  1. A 5-year residency leading to the designation of FRCP(EM) through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Emergency Medicine Board Certification - Emergency Medicine Consultant).
  2. A 1-year emergency medicine enhanced skills program following a 2-year family medicine residency leading to the designation of CCFP(EM) through the College of Family Physicians of Canada (Advanced Competency Certification).[21] The CFPC also allows those having worked a minimum of 4 years at a minimum of 400 hours per year in emergency medicine to challenge the examination of special competence in emergency medicine and thus become specialized.[21]

Most busy urban, sub-urban, and larger rural hospitals are staffed primarily by full-time, certified career emergency physicians. Smaller rural and community hospitals may still be staffed by family physicians who work in the emergency department on a part-time rotating basis. Basic experience in emergency medicine is a core component of family medicine training in Canada. The general trend in Canadian emergency departments over the last decade has been the gradual replacement of part-time, non-certified physicians (mostly family physicians) by full-time certified emergency physicians. This trend was first noted in larger academic centers but has gradually evolved to include most busy emergency departments.

CCFP(EM) emergency physicians outnumber FRCP(EM) physicians by a ratio of about 3 to 1, and they tend to work primarily as clinicians with a smaller focus on academic activities such as teaching and research. FRCP(EM) Emergency Medicine Board specialists tend to congregate in academic centers and tend to have more academically oriented careers, which emphasize administration, research, critical care, disaster medicine, and teaching. They also tend to sub-specialize in toxicology, critical care, pediatrics emergency medicine, and sports medicine. Furthermore, the length of the FRCP(EM) residency allows more time for formal training in these areas.

As a consequence of the above, most Canadian medical students wishing to pursue an academic emergency medicine career and/or work primarily in a major academic center choose the FRCP route of certification. On the other hand, those wishing to function primarily as clinical emergency physicians choose the CCFP route of certification.

Although many physicians in the emergency medicine community in Canada feel that a unified training process would be beneficial to the current 2-stream schism, this has yet to happen for a variety of complex reasons.[State reasons with citation]


The current post-graduate Emergency Medicine training process is highly complex in China. The first EM post-graduate training took place in 1984 at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. Because specialty certification in EM has not been established, formal training is not required to practice Emergency Medicine in China. For those physicians that do choose to obtain training in EM, several options are available. Graduates from medical school can apply directly to hospitals for staff physician-in-training positions, which eventually lead to a staff position at that same hospital. In addition, physicians from smaller hospitals can go to those larger academic centers for a 6 to 12-month post-graduate re-education. While these physicians may undergo the same training as the staff physicians, they will return to their own hospital once their training is completed. Finally, physicians having completed previous post-graduate training may choose to apply for fellowship positions for further training in Emergency Medicine.

About one decade ago, Emergency Medicine residency training was centralized at the municipal levels, following the guidelines issued by The Ministry of Public Health. Residency programs in all hospitals are called residency training bases, which have to be approved by local health governments. These bases are hospital-based, but the residents are selected and managed by the municipal associations of medical education. These associations are also the authoritative body of setting up their residents' training curriculum. All medical school graduates wanting to practice medicine have to go through 5 years of residency training at designated training bases, first 3 years of general rotation followed by 2 more years of specialty-centered training.


In India, many private hospitals and institutes have been providing Emergency Medicine training for doctors, nurses & paramedics since 1994, with certification programs varying from 6 months to 3 years. However, emergency medicine was only recognized as a separate specialty by the Medical Council of India in July 2009. Colleges such as Sri Ramachandra Medical College, Chennai, Vinayaka Missions University, Salem and Christian Medical College, Vellore ,Annamalai University were among the first to establish structured postgraduate programs. 3 year Emergency medicine residency is also provided by Apollo hospitals at various sites (Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, and Bangalore) making the candidates eligible to appear for MCEM examinations.

The National Board of Examinations has announced that DNB emergency medicine would be started from the next academic session at various accredited hospitals/colleges in India.


There are three universities (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, & Universiti Malaya) that offer master's degrees in emergency medicine - postgraduate training programs of four years in duration with clinical rotations, examinations and a dissertation. The first cohort of locally trained emergency physicians graduated in 2002.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In Saudi Arabia, Certification of Emergency Medicine is done by taking the 4-year program Saudi Board of Emergency Medicine (SBEM), which is accredited by Saudi Council for Health Specialties (SCFHS). It requires passing the two-part exam: first part and final part (written and oral) to obtain the SBEM certificate, which is equivalent to Doctorate Degree. http://saudiemergencymedicine.com/welcome/index.php

United States[edit]

Emergency medicine is a popular field for medical graduates; in 2014, there were 2,116 applicants for the Emergency Medicine categorical residency.[22] There are several combined residencies offered with other programs including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. Most programs are three years in duration, but some academic programs are now offering four-year programs. In addition to the didactic exposure, much of an emergency medicine residency involves rotating through emergency departments, intensive care units, pediatric and obstetric units, and other specialties. By the end of their training, Emergency Physicians are expected to handle a vast field of medical, surgical, and psychiatric emergencies, and are considered specialists in the stabilization and treatment of emergency conditions.

In the United States, there are three ways to become board-certified in emergency medicine:

A number of fellowships are available for Emergency Medicine graduates including pre-hospital medicine (emergency medical services), critical care, hospice and palliative care, research, undersea and hyperbaric medicine, sports medicine, pain medicine, ultrasound, pediatric Emergency Medicine, disaster medicine, wilderness medicine, toxicology, and critical care medicine.[23]

United Kingdom[edit]

Emergency medical trainees enter specialty training after five years of medical school and two years of foundation training.

During the two-year core training programme (Acute Care Common Stem), doctors complete training in anaesthesia, acute medicine, intensive care, and emergency medicine.[24] This is followed by a further year's training in paediatric emergency medicine and orthopaedics, and they must also pass the Membership of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RMCEM) examination. Trainees will then go onto higher training, lasting a further 3 years. Before the end of higher training, the final examination – the Fellowship of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RFCEM) – must be passed. Upon completion of training the doctor will be eligible for entry on the GMC Specialist Register and allowed to apply for a post as a Consultant in Emergency Medicine.

Historically, emergency specialists were drawn from anaesthesia, medicine, and surgery. Many established EM consultants were surgically trained; some hold the Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Accident and Emergency—FRCSEd(A&E). Some of these consultants will be referred to as 'Mister', whilst others chose either not to change from 'Doctor' or to change back to 'Doctor' after passing the FCEM exam. Others used the MRCP or the FRCA as their primary examination.

Trainees in Emergency Medicine may dual accredit in Intensive-Care Medicine or seek sub-specialisation in Paediatric Emergency Medicine.[25]


The only way to become a certified Emergency Medicine Physician is via attending Medical Board Examination (TUS) to become a resident. After TUS, candidates are allocated to different residencies according to their score and choice.

Emergency Medicine residency lasts for 4 years in Turkey. During the programme doctors complete 13 months of rotation on different specialties, including anesthesia, orthopedics, pulmonary medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, radiology, neurosurgery, neurology, and cardiology. Last year, they design and manage a clinical or animal research, and write their dissertations. At the end of their residency they attend two different exams three months apart: Dissertation Exam, Emergency Medicine Specialty Exam. Both exams are oral, and doctor is expected to answer all questions asked by the Exam Board. Exam Board consists of 5 members: 2-3 from Emergency Medicine, others from Internal Medicine, Surgery or Anesthesia faculty members. After the exam, doctor starts to hold the title of Emergency Medicine Specialist. However, all the doctors should attend a 2-year Obligatory Service in Turkey to be qualified to have their diploma. After this period, EM specialist can choose to work in private or governmental ED's.


Emergency Medicine training in Pakistan lasts for 5 years. The candidate enters the program by clearing part 1 of FCPS (fellow of college of physicians and surgeons of Pakistan) and passing the entry test of one of the institutions offering Emergency Medicine residency in Pakistan. The initial 2 years involve trainees to be sent to various sub-specialties including both medicine and surgery. Major rotations include, Internal Medicine, ICU, Anesthesia and Pediatrics. The residents enrolled in the program rotate for 3 months each of first two years. They work in the emergency Department for about six months. After the two years they appear in the exams called Intermediate Module (IMM). In last three years trainee residents spend most of their time in emergency room as senior residents. Full-time faculty supervises the residents. The duration can vary from 60–80 hours per week depending upon the rotation. There is an extensive curriculum that is covered over 5 years. Certain certificate courses include ACLS, PALS, ATLS, and research and dissertations are required for successful completion of the training. At the end of 5 years, candidates become eligible for sitting for FCPS part II exam. After completion of requirements and passing the exam, the physician is called Emergency Medicine specialist and they can use FCPS with their names.


First residency program in Iran started in 2002 at Iran University of Medical Sciences (which merged with Tehran University of Medical Sciences later). There are now three-year standard residency programs running in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, Isfahan, and some other universities. All these programs work under supervision of Emergency Medicine specialty board committee. There are now more than 200 (and increasing) board-certified Emergency Physicians in Iran.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A very warm welcome to the website of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine". Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Defining Urgent Care - Doctors Express.
  3. ^ Goldstein, Jacob (6 August 2008). "Emergency Room Visits Hit Record High - Health Blog - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 
  4. ^ Cydulka RK; Korte R (June 2008). "Career satisfaction in Emergency Medicine: the ABEM Longitudinal Study of Emergency Physicians". Ann Emerg Med 51 (6): 714–722.e1. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2008.01.005. PMID 18395936. 
  5. ^ Maurice Ellis Award http://www.collemergencymed.ac.uk/temp/1026-cec_maurice_ellis_info.pdf
  6. ^ "What is Emergency Medicine?". Yale School of Medicine. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Emergency Medicine". Emermed.uc.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  8. ^ Department of Emergency Medicine. "Department of Emergency Medicine". Keck.usc.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  9. ^ BAEM-Emergency Medicine Landmarks http://www.collemergencymed.ac.uk/CEM/History%20of%20the%20specialty/Emergency%20Medicine%20Landmarks/default.asp
  10. ^ Royal College of Emergency Medicine - Excellence in Emergency Care http://www.rcem.ac.uk/
  11. ^ Reid C, Clancy M (15 July 2012). "Life, limb and sight-saving procedures—the challenge of competence in the face of rarity". Emerg Med J (BMJ Group) 30 (2): 89–90. doi:10.1136/emermed-2012-201559. PMID 22802459. 
  12. ^ "Health Insurance Regulations 1975 (Cth) Schedule 4". 
  13. ^ "HB03 Elements of Training" (PDF). Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. 
  14. ^ "HB04 Basic Training" (PDF). Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. 
  15. ^ "HB05 Provisional Training" (PDF). Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. 
  16. ^ "HB06 Advanced Training" (PDF). Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. 
  17. ^ "HB10 Joint Training Programs" (PDF). Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. 
  18. ^ "EM Certificate and Diploma". Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. 
  19. ^ "EM Certificate" (PDF). Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. 
  20. ^ "EM Diploma" (PDF). Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. 
  21. ^ a b "Emergency Medicine (EM)". 
  22. ^ Cite AAMC Table 41: Residency Applicants of U.S. Medical Schools by Specialty, 2009-2014 https://www.aamc.org/download/321564/data/factstable41.pdf
  23. ^ "Subspecialty Certification". ABEM. Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  24. ^ ACCS web site
  25. ^ The College of Emergency Medicine A trainee’s guide to Specialty Training in Emergency Medicine CEM Training Standards Committee July 2009

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]