Disaster Medical Specialist

Job Description

Disaster medicine is a new specialty for physicians who are required to be one of the first on the scene in case of a disaster or an emergency where masses have been injured or have fallen ill.

Disaster Medical Specialists are expert healthcare professionals who are trained in assisting and providing crucial care in disaster and life-threatening scenarios on a large scale. Disaster Medical Specialists are one of the most unique careers in the healthcare industry.

One of the primary tasks of Disaster Medical Specialists includes helping government and hospitals devise an effective disaster response and assist in the preparation of recovery plans after the effects of the disaster have subsided. Disaster Medical Specialists play a key role in helping organizations evaluate the mass casualty fallout or illness rate that might occur from natural disasters. Disaster Medical Specialists help government agencies by creating predictive models and estimations on potential mass casualty scenarios and how they can best respond to them.

Another aspect of a Disaster Medical Specialist's job description is to assist with any natural disasters that might spring up by implementing their extensive training and expertise in the crisis scenario. Disaster Medical Specialists will assist in several different ways through control and containment of health concerns, civilian injuries, and civilian deaths.

The next key part of a Disaster Medical Specialist's job description is that they have to be open to fast-paced environments. Disaster Medical Specialists might be whisked away at a moment's notice to assist with a disaster scenario across the country. In other cases, they might only need to consult with officials and agencies over telecommunication systems. Because disasters are hard to predict, Disaster Medical Specialists must be ready to assist wherever they need to at a moment's notice.

Disaster Medicine Stages

There are several different stages of disaster medication and disaster planning that a Disaster Medical Specialist would assist in. The different phases of disaster medication include: Planning, coordination, implementation, transportation, and debriefing.

1. Planning

The first stage of disaster medicine is the planning stage. In this stage, Disaster Medical Specialists will be tasked with coming up with plans to assist in disaster prevention and disaster response when they do occur. During this stage, Disaster Medical Specialists are focused on developing plans to ensure that there are systems in place to prevent disasters from becoming catastrophic in nature.

Sometimes government officials or independent agencies will seek the planning and guidance of a Disaster Medical Specialist before something happens to ensure that all risks are mitigated before something occurs. In other cases, Disaster Medical Specialists will be brought on to plan the most efficient way to resolve civilian exposure and ailments. Disaster Medical Specialists will frequently plan important things like the number of response units, where directed efforts should be, containment areas, the supply of medical equipment and medication and more. Once the Disaster Medical Specialists assist in planning the important details, the next thing they are tasked with doing as part of their job description is to coordinate with the important parties.

2. Coordination

The next stage of disaster medicine that a Disaster Medical Specialist has to assist with is the coordination of disaster medicine and care efforts. The coordination of disaster medicine is arguably the most important aspect of caring for others because everybody needs to be on the same page. Planning to have certain medical equipment ready for disaster situations when they arise is great, but the organization that has the medical equipment needs to make sure that they have the equipment ready to provide and that they're capable of setting it up and educating healthcare officials when the time comes.

3. Implementation

The next stage of disaster medicine that a Disaster Medical Specialist has to assist with is the actual implementation of the disaster medicine and care efforts. This comes down to the Disaster Medical Specialist actually working with other healthcare professionals to set their plans into motion and begin caring for disaster patients. This stage in disaster medicine is where healthcare professionals and Disaster Medical Specialists will appreciate the amount of time they put into the planning and coordination stages, because the disaster medicine prevention and care can either go smoothly or poorly.

Disaster Medical Specialists will assist wherever necessary and begin treating patients in the assigned treatment stations. Most of the treatment that Disaster Medical Specialists will focus on is the stabilization of patients. Emergency patients will take precedence as opposed to those patients who are suffering from minor injuries or ailments.

In addition to providing direct care to patients in disaster medicine scenarios, Disaster Medical Specialists are tasked with assisting in the supervision of medical support staff.

4. Transportation

The next stage of disaster medicine for Disaster Medical Specialists is to safely transport patients to and from different care facilities to ensure they get the advanced care they need. Patients who need long term care and are stabilized will be transported to a care facility with greater tools than in the local disaster care centers that spring up during and shortly after a disaster.

For the patients who need long term care and are coherent, the next level of care they need will be explained to them and transportation will begin to be arranged and implemented at the earliest convenience.

5. Debriefing

The next stage in disaster medicine for Disaster Medical Specialists is to debrief after the disaster has been averted and patients have been cared for. The debriefing process is an excellent time to evaluate the planning and implementation phases to see if there was something that could have been done better. Part of this process is to evaluate whether or not there were things that could and should have been predicted but missed the mark in some regards to effectively caring for patients.

The next part of the debriefing is to evaluate how the coordination was between healthcare professionals, agencies, and emergency services in the disaster. Were there things that only lengthened the coordination between all elements and only lengthened the time it took to effectively care for patients?

Are there some ways to improve the coordination between the different elements to ensure that patients are treated more efficiently? These are just a few of the critical questions that need to be asked after a disaster medicine scenario. The answers should be used to ensure that the disaster medicine planning, preparation, and implementation continually get better each time.

A Disaster Medical Specialist can belong to any medical or surgical specialty as long as they have the ability to provide immediate health care under tremendous pressure and in the light of catastrophic circumstances. Now that we've outlined what a Disaster Medical Specialist's job description consists of, let's take a deeper look at some of their responsibilities.



Disaster Medical Specialists deal with calamities that stem from both natural and manmade causes. Examples of a natural disaster include a hurricane or an earthquake. Examples of a manmade emergency include train derailment or a massive inferno.

The objective of a Disaster Medical Specialist is to minimize the number of casualties as much as possible. Disaster Medical Specialists are trained to provide health care services in the field even in the face of limited health care resources.

Normally, Disaster Medical Specialists are designated the role of managing other health care professionals who are involved in disaster medicine such as first responders. They may also direct the actions of volunteering social workers. When not handling disastrous situations and emergencies, these specialists are seen working in numerous clinical jobs.

Disaster Medical Specialists often work as health care professionals in primary care, emergency departments and specialty clinics when they're not assisting with disaster medicine scenarios.

The first core responsibility that Disaster Medical Specialists have is to provide immediate medical care to patients in disaster medical scenarios. This consists of assessing individual patients as they come in as fast as they possibly can. This doesn't mean rushing the assessment process, just that each patient is assessed and then sent to the next level of care. Whether that's immediately caring for them because they're dealing with a life-threatening scenario, or passing them along to receive some non-immediate care.

During this assessment phase, Disaster Medical Specialists will also frequently be tasked with performing quick life-saving measures like CPR, immediate wound treatment, and more. This also means evaluating whether or not a patient actually needs wound treatment, illness treatment, or if they just need something like fluids and oxygen.

The next responsibility that Disaster Medical Specialists have is to be knowledgeable about natural disasters and understand the risks associated with them. Part of a Disaster Medical Specialist's job when it comes to understanding and being knowledgeable about natural disasters is to understand what the potential exposure or fallout from certain disasters could be. This responsibility is an important aspect of a Disaster Medical Specialist's job because it directly impacts several of their duties when it comes to the different disaster medicine stages as we've outlined before.

The next core responsibility that Disaster Medical Specialists have is to perform routine inspections on medical equipment and medical supplies for medical disasters. Disaster Medical Specialists cannot effectively do their job or treat patients efficiently if they don't have an ample amount of medical supplies or equipment to get the job done. Unfortunately, disaster scenarios cannot afford a massive influx of huge medical equipment to treat patients, which means that Disaster Medical Specialists need to be responsible for choosing the best equipment that will help them deal with as many patients as possible without sacrificing the quality of care that they can provide.

Another core responsibility for Disaster Medical Specialists is to coordinate and consult with other healthcare professionals. As the healthcare industry is one of the most collaborative environments, Disaster Medical Specialists can expect to interact with others frequently as part of their normal routine. Disaster Medical Specialists will also be responsible for staying apprised of all the potential medical disasters in their area.

This might mean staying apprised of community disasters, state disasters, or even regional disasters. Staying up to date on potential medical disasters that might arise or that are currently ongoing will also ensure that Disaster Medical Specialists are staying up to date with their equipment and medicine supply so they are ready when the time strikes to step into disasters and care for others.

From time to time, Disaster Medical Specialists will also be responsible for providing critical insight to government agencies, non-profit organizations, disaster aids, and more. This critical insight will focus on the guidance of pre-disaster preparation, effective treatment methods in disaster scenarios, coordination of patient treatment, and proper supervision of medical staff. In addition, Disaster Medical Specialists will provide threat evaluation from potential medical disasters or even terrorist attacks.

The next core responsibility that Disaster Medical Specialists have is to assist with the evaluation of potential monetary damages associated with those medical disasters or terrorist attacks. This is to assist insurance companies, government agencies, non-profit agencies, and more with the potential aid that is needed for disaster medicine intervention. This means that Disaster Medical Specialists are intimately familiar with the planning, coordination, and supervision of disaster medical efforts from all aspects like we've covered earlier.

The next thing that Disaster Medical Specialists are responsible for in their role is to stay up to date with research related to disaster medicine, disaster avoidance, and effective disaster response. This ensures that Disaster Medical Specialists are doing all they can to provide the most efficient and effective disaster medical care when the scenario arises, and are doing all they can to accurately prepare for future scenarios if they were to ever develop.

The next core responsibility that Disaster Medical Specialists have is to stay up to date with the appropriate licensing and documentation they need to operate in disaster medical scenarios and events across the country or globe. Every state requires different licensure to perform medicine in each state.

Different states require different licensure and examinations, and Disaster Medical Specialists need to certain they have all the documentation they need, passed the necessary exams, and obtained the requisite licensure to operate in certain states or regions across the country. For those Disaster Medical Specialists who wish to operate outside of the United States, additional research will be required to provide medical care outside the border.


Common Activities On The Job

There are several different activities that Disaster Medical Specialists can expect to do each day on the job. For those students, job seekers, or healthcare professionals who are interested in pursuing a career as a Disaster Medical Specialist, knowing what these common activities are will help you determine whether or not you can realistically see yourself working as a Disaster Medical Specialist full-time.

• Research

One of the most common activities on the job that Disaster Medical Specialists will have on the job is to research effective disaster medicine prevention techniques, stay apprised of new care treatments, and research effective ways to treat more patients with fewer resources. Effective research is critical to doing a good job as a Disaster Medical Specialist because of all the unforeseen things that might pop up in a disaster scenario. The more research that a Disaster Medical Specialist does, the more likely they are to understand how to respond in certain scenarios as they creep up.

• Planning and Development

The next common activity that Disaster Medical Specialists can expect on the job is to spend a large time of their day planning and developing disaster reaction and response scenarios. Part of this will be interacting with fellow healthcare professionals in addition to coordinating with outside agencies who will provide resources and equipment in disaster environments.

• Working with Others

The next most common activity that Disaster Medical Specialists will have on the job is to work with others extensively. This will involve working with outside professionals, government officials, disaster response officials, healthcare professionals, among others.

• Interacting With Patients

The next common activity that Disaster Medical Specialists will be doing each day on the job is to interact with patients.



We've taken the time to outline some of the most common and in-demand skills that Disaster Medical Specialists need to succeed on the job.



Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 


Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.


Working Conditions

Disaster Medical Specialists are trained to deal with uncertainty. They are required to handle emergency situations occurring at any time, at anyplace.

Since they have to work in locations that are struck by disaster, they are left exposed to numerous hazards. For example, when attending to patients stuck inside a collapsed building, the specialists have to encounter the danger of a spontaneous inferno.

There is no scope for clean and antiseptic medicine in this field. Health care must be provided in limited time and under immense pressure.

The margin for error is very narrow. Specialists are required to make life-or-death decisions on the spot for the betterment of the survivors.

Depending on how long the recovery work takes, Disaster Medical Specialists have to work for days at a stretch with little breaks in between. Under normal circumstances, Disaster Medical Specialists work regular business hours.

The work of a Disaster Medical Specialist is usually voluntary. Their salaries are earned by working as a regular physician.



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