In an emergency medicine career, every day is a matter of life and death

Providing that care is very rewarding “and your colleagues are very inspiring”, says

Emergency medicine also has the high drama, if not the glamour, you see on television shows, says Dr Pankaj Arora, co-director of emergency training and education at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, and CEO and founder of the WiSE emergency clinic at Macquarie Park.

“You need to be a multi-tasker to work in emergency,” he says.

Ghedia adds: “You also need plenty of energy and chutzpah.”

Typically, people are rostered on to 10-hour shifts for four days, evenings or nights, before being rostered off.

Emergency medicine has been a recognised speciality in Australia for about 30 years, says Arora.

EM physicians, with a strong belief in evidence-based medicine and a wide range of procedural and technical skills, co-ordinate acute care within the health system, according to the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM).

Training incorporates the breadth of medical, surgical, psychiatry and paediatrics, plus training in violence management and resilience.

Ghedia’s father, Prem, was a country GP and flying doctor in Western Australia and, of the family’s six children, her sister is also in medicine – a paediatrician at Royal North Shore Hospital sub-specialising in genetics.

She says her father always wanted her to be a doctor, although her other passion is art – she
paints acrylic portraits to switch off from her high-stress profession.

After gaining her MBBS at Sydney University, Ghedia worked in Sydney hospitals including Westmead and Nepean, then St Thomas’ Hospital in London as a senior house officer, before returning to a position as a trainee registrar at Westmead and then Concord Hospital.

She completed EM training through the ACEM, qualifying in 2007.

“What I like about my job, besides the fact that I am able to help people in crisis, is that it’s a bit like being a detective. You have to gather all the clues by asking questions and doing tests in order to make a diagnosis,” she says.

Arora says we desperately need more emergency physicians.

“The number of patients presenting to emergency departments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years, but the number of emergency physicians’ positions has not responded to the demand because of hospital funding,” he says.

To be a specialist emergency physician, you must become a fellow of the ACEM. This involves being selected for a five-year training program. It includes structured training and education, workplace-based assessments, research requirements and rigorous exams.

Generally, you must have an Australian or New Zealand primary medical degree, be a graduate in medicine and surgery of a recognised medical school, or have obtained general registration with the Medical Board Australia, says Lyn Johnson, executive director for education and training at the ACEM. Trainees must also arrange employment that meets their certification and training requirements. The ACEM also offers a medical certificate and diploma.

According to the ACEM, key attributes of an EM physician are decisiveness, teamwork, resilience and excellent interpersonal skills, plus a breadth of knowledge across all facets of medicine. It says EM physicians must think fast on their feet and see the big picture while being alert to the smallest details, make good decisions and solve problems, and lead a team of health professionals to provide urgent patient care and work across many facets of medicine.

If you’re interested in lots of medical specialties and are good at multi-tasking, emergency
medicine is the job for you, says Arora.

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