Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Guerra chose the field of emergency medicine and why emergency medicine is a great field.
Choosing a specialty has everything to do with finding “your people”. Who do you feel most inspired by, most able to be yourself, open to learn, and enjoy your surroundings? Find that, and you will thrive. Ultimately, it was the witty, humble, and down-to-earth doctors in the Emergency Department who I wanted to kick it with for the next twenty or so years. Their complete coolness under fire, breath of knowledge and skill, and ability to compartmentalize the most gut wrenchingly sad or gruesome moments to put on a smile for the next patient were traits I admired. Plus, spoiler alert, as an EM physician you still get to work with all of the other amazing specialists along the way.
I am the kind of person who orders something different every time she goes to Starbucks. I say it’s simply me not being discriminatory, but mostly I just can’t make up my mind. As you can imagine that indecisiveness made it really difficult for me to settle on a specialty. I felt the potential for major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). As a student, I loved almost every rotation. Except when the OR nurses made me cry. I didn’t like that. Why are they so mean? I completed multiple audition rotations in Orthopedics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Emergency Medicine, including writing residency personal statements for each. Talk about making an already difficult process more stressful and expensive! I even went on one PM&R residency interview and had multiple others, including transitional and preliminary year interviews set up, before I finally realized something very important. I realized the very reason WHY it was so difficult for me to choose a specialty was exactly why EM was a perfect fit.
I want to be the doctor prepared for anything. I want to know a baseline about everything in medicine. I do not want to be confined to a set schedule or have to live in one place forever. I want to be able to choose from a multitude of different fellowships should the fancy strike. I want to have a family and actually spend a lot time with them. I want to practice medicine, but not have it suffocate my other interests and hobbies. I want everything, that’s WHY EM.
In the Emergency Department, you are the first doctor to the patient. You have the unique opportunity to help them in their most vulnerable time. As an EM physician you are the perfect combination of MacGyver and Sherlock Holmes: thinking on your feet, managing the organized chaos, and solving the mysteries. Where does everyone go when they need help, even other doctors? The Emergency Department. Any complaint or injury, age, gender, socioeconomic class, you got it! Cool procedures? Plenty! Best of all, you get the opportunity to save lives, really save lives, every single day. We are the “Resuscitationists”, aka the specialists in the process of correcting physiological disorders in an acutely unwell patient.
EM provides the opportunity for a fantastic work-life balance. We aren’t forced into the monotony of a Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm, schedule. Yes, we have to work some nights and weekends, but we also have the unique ability to schedule large chunks of time off. Full time for most is somewhere between 120-140 hours a month, which typically means working half of the days in every month or less! Did you catch, that? If not, scroll back and read that again. It's pretty awesome!
You can work part-time, three-quarters, or full-time, be well compensated, and have plenty of time and energy for your other interests and hobbies. Need some extra money? Pick up a couple extra shifts. Want to move to another part of the country? Do it! You don’t have to rebuild an entire practice from the ground up or start all over again. Rough day? Well, when you are done with work you can take a metaphorical shower and leave it all there, no pager, no call.
Can you see yourself as the leader of a dynamic team comprised of nurses, techs, secretaries, scribes, first responders, social workers, case managers, advanced practice providers, and house keeping staff, each with their own vital role? Maybe you also enjoy the freedom of shift work, the unknown of what’s in store when you head into work, or the continual challenge of being medicine’s own “Jack of all Trades”? If so, I look forward to being your colleague one day. If not, our paths may cross again. One thing is for certain, if you go into Emergency Medicine, you will always have the best stories at any party. Best of luck to you!