Working life (EM)

This page provides useful information about the roles and responsibilities of emergency doctors, where they work, who they work with and what they feel about their role.

How your time is spent

The emergency doctor may have limited information about a patient when they first see them. They have to use their clinical skills to prioritise what they and the team need to do to save the patient and aid the patient’s recovery, sometimes without either the aid of a full diagnosis or the patient’s full consent. They are responsible for the initial assessment and treatment of patients. Most patients are then discharged but some need to make a follow-up appointment with their GP. About 20% are admitted to hospital and need to see other specialists. Emergency doctors need a well-developed understanding of pre-hospital and in-hospital emergency medical systems to do their role well.

Emergency doctors work mainly in the Accident and Emergency Departments of hospitals. Major A&E Departments are open 24/7. Emergency doctors may also carry out their work:

Road traffic accident casualties, older people with unsupported living arrangements and alcohol and drug abusers make up a notable proportion of admissions to A&E services. Future work in EM will be affected by an ageing population with higher rates of obesity and a greater number of co-morbidities (having more than one disease).

Working hours

Like many specialties, emergency doctors must expect to do an appreciable amount of planned night-time and weekend work; but the EU working time directive limits junior doctors from doing more than 48 hours per week in order for them to fit in time for their training.

There is constant variety and challenge: exposure to a great deal of “real life” ". Jonathan Benger is a professor of Emergency Medicine in Bristol.

Read Jonathan’s story

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