Imagine being a new emergency medicine doctor and having your colleagues routinely ask you what your future specialty is going to be. Such questions are not all that uncommon. There is this unwritten assumption that emergency medicine jobs are always a stepping stone to something better, something more lucrative. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. There are doctors who spend their entire careers in the emergency department (ED) simply because they love it.
Emergency medicine is indeed its own specialty with a unique set of skills and an extensive knowledge base. ED clinicians must be prepared to see just about anything during any given shift. There are no rules regarding who comes in the ED doors or what they are dealing with. Doctors have to be ready for anything.
No Time to Relax
It is common knowledge to anyone who works in the ED that there is very little time to relax. That may be true in all of medicine, but the problem is most profound in the emergency room. The work is nonstop from the moment a shift begins until the moment it ends.
Nonstop activity is one of the things that draws some clinicians to the emergency environment. They like being busy. They enjoy the challenge of constantly moving from one patient to the next, combining minor cases with life-threatening emergencies.
Dealing with the hectic environment of the emergency room definitely requires a special kind of clinician. Whether doctor, physician assistant or nurse, a person has to have the ability to simultaneously concentrate on a single case and multitask well enough to deal with a full waiting room.
Plenty of Opportunity to Help
Another thing that drives clinicians into emergency medicine is a desire to help as many people as possible. The opportunities to do so are certainly there. Let us illustrate the point with some basic math.
Let’s say an ED physician sees 10 different patients per day, five days per week. That doctor will see some 2,600 different people every single year. Multiply that by 30 years to account for a full career and you are talking about 76,000 individual patients. That’s a lot of opportunities to help people.
Locum Tenens Emergency Medicine
You could make the case that working in the emergency room is the most challenging form of medical practice. But let’s add one more challenge to the equation: working as a locum tenens emergency medicine practitioner. Now you not only have the unique environment of the ED to cope with, you also have the added challenges that come with being a locum.
It is worth noting that locum clinicians in every specialty face the same kinds of questions faced by permanent placement ED physicians. In other words, their colleagues want to know what they will eventually settle down and do in the future.
Just like ED physicians who love their jobs, there are locums who will spend their entire careers working short-term assignments because it’s what they love doing. Their choice is strange to a lot of people used to the routine of a traditional job. But to many locums, there is no better choice for practicing emergency medicine.
Emergency medicine is by no means easy. It comes with its own unique challenges more than capable of separating the best doctors from those just getting by. In the end, there is that small group of clinicians who thrive in the emergency department and have no desire to do anything else. They stay in the ED because they love it, not because they are wanting to use it as a stepping stone.