If you’ve ever visited an emergency room (ER), then you know how hectic and intense these places can be. On any given day, ERs attend to people from all walks of life who need acute care for either injuries or severe or critical medical conditions. So, it should therefore come as no surprise that an emergency room physician must be someone who can handle stressful situations and make life-saving decisions on the spot. With the number of ER visits increasing by the year, the demand for emergency physicians is greater now than ever before. If you plan to pursue a career in medicine, have you considered becoming an emergency room physician?

Xavier University School of Medicine (XUSOM) in Aruba explores why this is the best time to pursue a medical degree as well as what it takes to become an emergency medicine physician in this demanding—yet rewarding—profession.

Why emergency room physicians are in demand

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 136 million patients visit emergency rooms in the United States each year. Over 40 million of these visits are injury-related. As reported in The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034—a report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—the U.S. could see a physician shortage between 54,100 and 139,000 within the next 11 years. And an estimated 18,600-31,800 account for emergency medicine physicians, among other specialists.

What is the role of an emergency physician?

Emergency physicians work closely with ancillary and support staff to treat and care for patients with acute (severe or critical) medical conditions. As one can imagine, working as an emergency physician can be challenging. From one case to the next, these doctors never know the severity of their next patient’s condition. From broken bones and lacerations to accident injuries and life-threatening episodes, emergency physicians must be able to handle the complexities of various medical conditions with composure and quick decision making. Here are some tasks that ER doctors accomplish when attending to their patients:

  • Stabilize and treat patients who are experiencing acute health problems or traumatic injuries.
  • Conduct an initial patient evaluation and examination.
  • Order blood work and tests to further understand the patient’s condition.
  • Order medication based on patient’s current condition, medical history, allergies, etc.
  • Conduct consultations with other doctors, nurses and any other support staff to help determine the best course of action for the patient and coordinate with specialists for any follow-up care.
  • Explain diagnoses, procedures, tests and treatments to patients and their family members.
  • Read various test results and imaging throughout the course of the patient’s care in the ER.
  • Refer patients to see appropriate specialists.

How do you become an emergency physician?

Becoming an emergency physician is highly competitive and takes time—approximately 11-to-12 years to be exact—and longer if the medical student chooses to specialize. Anyone considering this career path should fully consider the scope of the profession and the intensity of the situations which he or she will encounter in the ER. Although the career may be intense, the ability to help several patients on any given day—and possibly save their lives—is rewarding. Here is a snapshot of what is required to become an emergency physician:

  • Attend medical school—To become an emergency physician, each medical school student must receive their degree. . Students can expect to take rigorous schedules of coursework in anatomy and biology, along with in-depth medical lab curriculums. At Xavier, we have state of the art labs and our integrated curriculum will certainly prepare you for a career in emergency medicine.
  • Complete clinical rotations—Medical students must complete clinical rotations under the management of a licensed medical professional. During rotations, students work in different specialties, which gives them glimpses into the different areas of medical care. Xavier’s students complete their clinical rotations in the United States at ACGME-accredited hospitals
  • Pass licensing examinations—Medical students are required to pass all portions of three tests as part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before they can practice medicine.
  • Complete residency programResidencies provide medical students with on-the-job training in the specific field of medicine they wish to specialize in. To become emergency physicians, students can expect their specified residency programs to last three years and include training, lab work and gaining experience in a clinical setting.
  • Get licensedEvery emergency physician must acquire a state license before working with patients. He or she must be sure to research the requirements regarding where they will be living, since requirements vary by location.
  • Become board certifiedIt is required for every emergency physician to become board certified in his or her area of specialty—and maintain this active certification status. This certification proves that the physician has met the minimum requirements and has established expertise in his or her field. Complete fellowship—To stay competitive in the field, some emergency physicians choose to further their expertise with a subspecialty. These areas can include:
    • Pediatric emergency medicine
    • Pain management
    • Disaster medicine
    • Medical toxicology
    • Sports medicine
    • Wilderness medicine
    • Undersea and hyperbaric medicine

Qualities that make a great emergency physician

Working in an ER is unpredictable, fast-paced and can be stressful at times. Could this be the right fit for you? Here are some important qualities that make a great emergency physician:

  • Able to maintain composure under any circumstance
  • Works well with others in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent at multitasking
  • Great problem solver
  • Detail oriented
  • Works well under pressure
  • Can think quickly on their feet

Benefits of becoming an emergency physician

Emergency room physicians have a huge advantage over other doctors in that they have a consistent schedule and are rarely “on call.” Here are some other benefits to becoming an emergency physician:

  • See a variety of patients—Every day, emergency physicians see patients from all walks of life. From children and the elderly to pregnant women and psychiatric patients, no two patients are ever the same. ER doctors may see up to 50 patients per day.
  • Flexible schedule—Emergency physicians typically work 8-to-12-hour shifts, with days off in between. This allows for more personal time to suit the physician’s lifestyle.
  • Competitive salary—The average annual salary for an emergency physician in the United States is approximately $250,000.

How a medical degree from Xavier can get you there

If becoming a doctor is your passion, Xavier has what every medical student wants—and then some. Located on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Aruba, Xavier offers an exceptional medical education with benchmarks that make this school an attractive choice. Here are just some of the reasons why students chose Xavier to pursue their medical degrees:

  • Study in Aruba, one of the most beautiful islands in the world
  • Fully accredited
  • An exceptional curriculum that’s modeled on the U.S. system
  • High pass rate on the US Medical Licensing Exams
  • More than 30 clinical affiliations throughout the U.S. and Canada
  • 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio
  • 15 different scholarships and grants available
  • Affordable tuition
  • Flexible financing
  • Gorgeous, new residential campus

Learn more about what our alumni are doing and see how they took their Xavier education to the next level. Be a part of the next generation of physicians. A degree from Xavier can get you there. Join Xavier during one of our three intakes: January, May or September. Don’t put off your dream of becoming a doctor any longer – apply today!