P. S. Martin, MD FACEP
Board Certification: Emergency Medicine
Medical School: West Virginia University
Residency: MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA
Faculty Rank: Associate Professor
Special Clinical/Research Interests: EMS, Helicopter EMS, Critical Care Transport Medicine
Is there a particular population of students (e.g., ethnicity, spiritual, sexual orientation) that you would particularly like to advise?
What does a typical day in the life of an Emergency Medicine Physician include?
EM physicians work clinical shifts, usually 8, 12, or 24 hours depending upon the location you choose to work. Emergency Medicine is the ultimate in “Team Sports” when it comes to medical specialties. While the EM physician coordinates the team, they certainly could not accomplish their job without the assistance of skilled Secretarial staff, Environmental services, Communication Specialists, Paramedics/EMTs, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and other ancillary staff/support services. Because we are the chief coordinator of the team, we need to be able to step into any of these roles, if needed, to make certain the team accomplishes its goal. That goal is to rapidly and efficiently address the medical, social, psychological needs of every patient presenting to the ED for care. EM Physicians should be the best at the initial resuscitation of every type of patient, quickly address urgent needs, initiate treatment and stabilization, then make a disposition that ranges from discharge home with appropriate follow-up to appropriate consultation or admission.
What is the biggest challenge of being an Emergency Medicine Physician?
The biggest challenges of Emergency Medicine are being able to multi-task and to guard against burn out. You must always be cognizant of the fact that you are seeing people at their absolute worst, meaning they are sick. Not feeling well they are not always patient, not always kind or polite, often demanding, and a challenge to your ability to empathize. It’s not easy but as long as you remember their actions and current attitudes are typically due to their illness, you are able to maintain perspective and provide the help necessary. No matter how difficulty this can be at times, Emergency Medicine can be one of the most rewarding experiences. When dealing with the sickest of the sick, you have the wonderful opportunity to anonymously step into someone’s life, make a difference, and step out again, without them even knowing you were there. I assure you, there is no better feeling!
How do you foresee changing over the next 20 years?
The Emergency Department is actually the “front door” of the hospital for many admitted patients. There are always challenges especially when a hospital’s census is maximized, the flow of admitted patients can slow dramatically, tying up ED rooms and resources. As the health care market continues to change and many hospitals continue to close, the number of available in-patient beds continues to decrease. This will continue to be a challenge for EM. I also believe that technology will continue to help with the evolution of EM. We have already seen many changes over the years from: rapid sequence intubation, video laryngoscopy, ultrasound, and a multitude of other emergency procedures. The numbers and types of available emergency procedures will continue to evolve and become available. One such procedure will be the ultrasound-guided placement of an IJ catheter allowing us to initiate emergency VV ECMO.
What advice would you give a student who is considering an Emergency Medicine residency?
If you are considering the Emergency Medicine Specialty, reach out to our Emergency Medicine faculty and let us know of your interest. It is important for you to do several EM electives in regions where you are considering applying for residency. There is no better way to help guide your rank-list decision than experiencing how a department operates first hand. It is also important for you to obtain a broad spectrum of experiences when it comes to medical school electives and selectives. You will see everything in the Emergency Department the best way to be prepared is to have a wide range of educational experiences. EMS experience is also an excellent way to develop an understanding of what happens to patients prior to our receiving them in the ED. It is always easy to play “Monday-morning quarterback” when it comes to judging pre-hospital care. However, witnessing the conditions under which EMTs and Paramedics often work, gives one excellent insight into why certain pre-hospital decisions are made. It also helps to facilitate that critical time surrounding transfer of care from EMS to the hospital staff. This is a time for the hospital staff to obtain the most accurate patient history, an opportunity that can mean life for death if critical details are missed.