Emergency Medicine Doctor: Educational Requirements

Emergency medicine doctors typically care for patients in critical condition. Entering this medical profession requires extensive schooling. Students will need undergraduate studies, medical school, a residency program and, possibly, a fellowship.

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Educational Requirements for an Emergency Medicine Doctor

Emergency medicine doctors work in emergency rooms (ERs) or trauma centers and treat patients who need immediate care. These professionals specialize in advanced cardiac life support, trauma care and management of other life-threatening conditions. They may treat general emergencies or work in a specialty and treat only patients within that specialization. Emergency medicine doctors must be able to make quick decisions and lead a team of other medical professionals during intensely stressful situations.

Payscale.com indicated in October of 2013 that most emergency room doctors made about $103,000 to $400,000 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for doctors overall will rise 24% in the U.S. during the 2010-2020 decade.

Undergraduate Degree

Most students earn a bachelor's degree prior to medical school, but only 3 years of undergraduate work is required for admission. While there isn't a bachelor's degree program specific to emergency medicine, students may major in pre-medicine or a related science-based major. Relevant coursework that prospective emergency medicine doctors may take include chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology. Undergraduates may gain practical experience volunteering in medical centers.

Medical School

The first two years of medical school are referred to as the pre-clinical years. During this period, students study the major systems of the body, diseases and foundational techniques in patient care. The final two years are the clinical years in which students perform supervised clinical clerkships. Clerkships in emergency medicine introduce students to the concepts used in identifying life-threatening conditions and providing treatment.

Students looking for prospective medical schools may want to consider only accredited schools because graduation from an accredited school is required to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). All states require doctors to pass the USMLE to legally practice medicine. Medical schools in the U.S. are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Residency Program

Residency programs, typically, last three or four years and provide increased independence with greater responsibility in patient care. The first year introduces residents to the broad aspects of emergency medicine, such as critical care and trauma. For the remainder of the program, residents perform rotations in specialties, like toxicology and pediatrics, and may experience flight training. Some programs offer a joint residency in emergency and internal medicine.

When applying for residencies, students may want to consider only programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). According to the ACGME, accredited programs are a prerequisite for certification by primary medical boards and many subspecialty medical boards (www.acgme.org).

Fellowship Program

Individuals who wish to specialize in a particular area of emergency medicine will need to complete a fellowship. Fellowships in emergency medicine include medical toxicology, hyperbaric medicine and ultrasounds. Most fellowships last one or two years and introduce individuals to the analytical techniques of their specialty. These programs may allow fellows to perform advanced research and share their findings.

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