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Emergency Medicine as defined by the International Federation for Emergency Medicine in 1991 as "A field of practice based on the knowledge and skills required for the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute and urgent aspects of illness and injury affecting patients of all age groups with a full spectrum of undifferentiated physical and behavioural disorders. It further encompasses an understanding of the development of pre-hospital and in-hospital emergency medical systems and the skills necessary for this development."

What do emergency physicians do?

Emergency physicians provide a high level of emergency care for acutely ill and injured patients of all ages. They also work outside the emergency department, in clinics and community health centres, for aeromedical organisations and in developing countries around the world

Emergency physicians work primarily in the emergency department of public or private hospitals. They assess and treat a wide range of illnesses, and potentially life or limb threatening conditions. Examples include: heart attacks, strokes, fractures, asthma attacks, injuries resulting from car crashes, pregnancy related emergencies and overdoses.

Patients with acute illness or injury can present at any time, with a wide range of problems with little information available and without a diagnosis. They present a great challenge for emergency physicians who provide rapid and appropriate treatment in the first few hours to establish an effective early diagnosis to provide successful treatment. Emergency medicine requires an exceptional breadth of knowledge.

Why is emergency medicine different from other medical specialties?

Various healthcare practitioners may work in EDs alongside emergency physicians. These include physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, and psychiatric nurses. The care in EDs is supervised by emergency physician consultants trained by ACEM, whose job it is to ensure that the patients passing through the ED receive the highest possible standard of care. At different times they can be called on to work closely with paramedics, social workers and the police.

ACEM trainees also complete:

  • Terms in Paediatrics and Anaesthesia or Intensive Care as a compulsory part of their training
  • Additional ‘special skills’ terms and can choose from a variety of subjects including Ultrasound, Simulation, Toxicology and Trauma
  • Terms of study situated in a rural/regional emergency department and also outside the emergency department entirely.

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