Emergency physicians are medical professionals who are dedicated to saving lives and providing the highest quality of care to all their patients. Emergency medicine is a medical specialty, and emergency physicians have developed specific lifesaving skills in adult and pediatric medicine that span multiple disciplines and specialties.
One in three Americans visit emergency departments each year, for a total of more than 115 million visits. Each of these individuals comes with a unique set of circumstances and medical issues, and emergency physicians often must use their judgment and expertise to quickly determine the best course of treatment in life and death situations.
Emergency physicians treat the toughest cases - and often must make decisions with limited medical information. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, many hospital emergency departments are crowded places, where doctors often treat many different patients during long shifts.
Today emergency medicine is a technologically advanced, board-certified, accredited medical specialty. However, even as late as the mid 1960s, many U.S. hospitals still didn't have emergency departments or use ambulances. Although some states required public hospitals to provide emergency care at this time, critical care patients often were transported to emergency rooms in hearses, because in many places these were the only vehicles available in which people could lie flat. Pre-hospital care, such as that provided by today's emergency medical technicians (EMTs), was almost nonexistent, and medical treatment usually didn't begin until a patient arrived at the hospital.
Even prior to this time, however, improvements in medicine, coupled with greater availability of diagnostic equipment and an increase in public demand for medical services, contributed to more emergency visits. In fact, visits almost tripled between 1954 and 1964. This increased demand, in turn, led to many improvements in emergency care. Thus today if you have a medical emergency, you can expect to be treated by a highly trained emergency specialist.
Today's emergency physicians are not only highly educated and well-trained, they also work to maintain high standards of excellence and improve emergency medicine worldwide. Many conduct cutting-edge research and are at the forefront of medical advances, and through this work they improve the practice of medicine. Because they must be particularly flexible and quick-thinking in their roles, they are also specially qualified to adopt and utilize new technology quickly, and to adapt more rapidly to other changes in the health care system.
Hospital emergency departments have a federal mandate to treat everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. In a medical emergency, you will never be turned away
Who Takes Care of You in an Emergency? (PDF).