Emergency physician
Emergency medicine simulation
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Education required
Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Fields of
Hospitals, Clinics, Helicopter Emergency Medical Service

An emergency physician (often called an "ER doctor" in the United States) is a physician who works in an emergency department to care for ill patients. The emergency physician specializes in advanced cardiac life support (advanced life support in Europe), resuscitation, trauma care such as fractures and soft tissue injuries, and management of other life-threatening situations.

In some European countries (e.g. Germany, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden), emergency physicians/anaesthetists[1] are also part of the emergency medical service. They are dispatched together with emergency medical technicians and paramedics in cases of potentially life-threatening situations for patients (heart attacks, serious accidents, resuscitations or unconsciousness, strokes, drug overdoses, etc.).[2] In the United States, emergency physicians are mostly hospital-based, but also work on air ambulances and mobile intensive-care units.

Patients who are brought in the emergency department are usually sent to triage first. The patient may be triaged by an emergency physician, a paramedic, or a nurse; in the United States, triage is usually performed by a registered nurse. If the patient requires admission to the hospital, another physician, such as an internal medicine physician, cardiologist, or neurologist takes over from the emergency physician.

Training in the United States

The standard training route of emergency physicians in the United States is four years of college, four years of an approved medical school, and then a three- or four-year residency in emergency medicine.[3] After completion of residency it is common for American emergency physicians to work in a hospital's emergency department and take the board certification necessary to become certified in emergency medicine. This includes a 300+ question written exam followed by an oral examination.[4]

Role in healthcare

Emergency physicians in the United States typically work in emergency departments. Patients come in for a variety of reasons, including severe, life-threatening complaints such as strokes and heart attacks, potentially life-threatening complaints like severe abdominal pain, and less severe complaints such as mild injuries. The emergency physician is expected to oversee their care, rule out life-threatening diseases, stabilize the patient if necessary, and decide if the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital for further care or discharged home to follow up as an outpatient.[5] Emergency physicians work with a large number of other professionals, including physician assistants/nurse practitioners, registered nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, medical technicians, medical scribes, and more. For more information on what the practice of an emergency physician looks like, see emergency medicine.


Some additional training paths after becoming an emergency physician include:

These training paths are recognized by the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and are anywhere from 1–2 years in length.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Training". Ibtphem.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  2. ^ "Emergency Medicine - A Practical Perspective". Loyala University Medical Education Network. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  3. ^ "What Is an Emergency Medicine Doctor?". WebMD. WebMD.
  4. ^ "Resident's Guide to ABEM Certification". www.abem.org.
  5. ^ "American Board of Emergency Medicine | An ABMS Member Board". American Board of Medical Specialties.
  6. ^ Boyden, Megan. "MD" (PDF). aaemrsa.org. American Academy of Emergency Medicine.