Emergency Medicine Resident

Scott C. Smithgall

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I am an emergency medicine resident/physician . I have graduated from medical school and selected to receive further medical training in the specialty of emergency medicine . What skills are needed? Important skills for becoming a physician are strong work ethic , strong interpersonal skills , determination , ability to work under pressure and function normally amidst utter chaos (sometimes). What was your major? Biology and Psychology . However, admission to medical school is available to undergraduate students with a variety of backgrounds. One of my med school classmates was an English Literature major. How did you get started in your career? I started as a volunteer in the local ER while I was in college. My duties were to change beds, and help the nursing staff. Fortunately this position gave me free reign to follow the doctors around and observe their work. I found the ER physician's role to be fascinating, and so I pursued a career in medicine. What experience do you need in this job? In order to be a physician, you will first need a college education with concentration in specific courses required by all medical schools. Either during or after college, you must pass the MCAT ( Medical College Admissions Test ) and apply to medical school. The first two years of medical school are spent in the classroom developing general medical knowledge. The last two years of medical school are spent on rotations in clinical settings, where hands-on learning occurs. As a senior medical student, you must choose your specialty and apply for that field. After receiving your medical degree, you will spend several more years in residency receiving further training in your specialty field. Throughout medical school and residency training, there are 3 levels of national boards tests to pass and finally, the specialty boards exam . Describe your "typical" workday: On a typical day I work a 12 hour shift. My responsibilities are to examine and evaluate incoming patients , order the appropriate lab workup, complete all patient charting and documentation, perform all clinical procedures that I am trained to perform, and finally to determine whether my patients need to be treated as an inpatient or outpatient. If I am faced with a procedure I have not performed, my supervising physician instructs me and I perform the procedure under their guidance. Otherwise, I complete my patient workup and present the summary to my supervising physician. I see presenting complaints ranging from children with runny noses to adults in full cardiac arrest. What is the hardest aspect of your job? My particular training program has me constantly moving to different emergency rooms on a monthly basis, many of which are urban. The constant adjusting to new locations is wearisome, and it is often hard to remain objective when you are tired and facing difficult patients (i.e. drug abusers, gang violence victims, etc.). The schedule is also busy and can put a strain on any relationship. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Unsolicited, genuine thanks from a patient. No matter how bad your day has been, a little thank you can go a long way. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field?
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