Emergency rooms (ER) have long been the subject of drama and are considered one of the most fascinating areas of medical care. Oftentimes, careers in the ER are what people think of when they first consider a medical career or job, due to their high degree of visibility in popular media.
Multiple TV dramas, reality television shows, films, and documentaries are based on the events in and around the ER, whether they are presented in a realistic or highly dramatized way.
One of the most critical components in an emergency medical career is a desire for an action-packed day and a diverse patient load with a wide range of chief complaints and medical histories.
Emergency medical professionals enjoy treating acute and critical issues and then sending the patient on his or her way. Then, they can proceed to the next issue and the next patient.
Emergency medical professionals also must be able to cope with loss or terminal diagnoses. The fact is, some patients won’t be cured. A busy, high-acuity ER will see multiple severe trauma patients or those with terminal diagnoses, oftentimes in the same day.
If you prefer to build relationships with patients and want to see the results of continuity of care, the ER might not be right for you. Fundamentally, the ER is a fast-paced work environment that will consistently need employees to help their patient loads.
Whatever your skill sets may be, there is an enormous range of positions in the emergency room - from positions demanding high school diplomas to physicians in need of a medical degree, and just about everything in between. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most commonly seen careers in the emergency room.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), also known as paramedics, are called “first responders” because they are specially trained to quickly assess an emergency situation, stabilize and then transport patients to the hospital emergency department.
Emergency operators (911) call EMTs to respond to nearly any medical emergency, but are most commonly called for car accidents, childbirth, violent traumas, and heart attacks and then work with other emergency personnel (like police and firefighters) to stabilize and then transport the patients to area hospitals for treatment.
Emergency medicine physicians are medical doctors who have advanced training in handling emergent medical conditions. Completion of medical school is required, followed by a residency training program or a fellowship in emergency medicine.
They are then board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM). Emergency medicine physicians work in the emergency department of a hospital in most cases. Their shifts range from 8-12 hours and often work anywhere between 8 and 20 shifts per month. Chief complaints vary based on hospital; an emergency physician at a Level 1 Trauma Center might deal with very severe cases of trauma, whereas a physician in a smaller hospital might see minor emergencies.
ER nurses hold the most important job in the emergency department, according to many physicians. They have direct patient contact and are responsible for triage (the process of prioritizing patients in order of urgency or importance).
ER nurses work closely with physicians to assess patient conditions to control the patient flow and efficacy of the department, in addition to assessing patient condition by taking vital signs, asking screening questions and helping to run tests. There are a wide range of levels of responsibility, clinical authority, and education, though most ER nurses hold the certification of registered nurse, or RN.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a member of the emergency department working under the direction of a nurse, providing nursing care to patients. CNAs typically provide assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, bathroom visits, and oral care (activities of daily living, or ADLs) to people who cannot complete these tasks alone.
In the emergency room, CNAs play a vital role in addition to ADL assistance with a wide range of tasks including assisting with resuscitations and CPR, splinting injuries, and assisting physicians in procedures.
Unit secretaries are administrative professionals who work in the emergency department of the hospital. Their duties include answering telephones, billing, filing, and admitting patients.
The unit secretary also works closely with other departments in the hospital, like the lab or respiratory or radiology departments, to schedule tests like x-rays, electrocardiograms, and blood work.
Radiology technicians produce images of the body that enable physicians to diagnose and treat medical conditions that would otherwise be difficult to document.
Technicians operate sophisticated equipment including X-ray, mammography, computerized axial tomography (CAT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scan devices. Radiology techs guide patients through their respective procedures ensuring quality imaging and calming patient anxieties.
Regardless of what position you choose or what role you fulfill, working in the emergency room is a satisfying career filled with patient contact, problem solving, and an incredibly fast-moving environment. So, if you appreciate a fast pace and thrive under pressure, consider a job in a hospital emergency room. Browse some of our hospital profiles to learn more about the hospitals in your area.