Emergencies and medical care have gone hand-in-hand for as long as human beings have been on the earth. As for what would be considered modern emergency medicine, it is a relatively new phenomenon birthed out of a desperate crisis of need. If not for two world wars and a small handful of physicians who recognized a deficit in American medical care, what we now know as emergency medicine might not exist.
Emergency medicine on the battlefield is as old as war itself. From the American Revolution to the war between the states, doctors were present to treat wounded soldiers not far from the fighting. Fast-forward to the world war era that pretty much dominated the first half of the 20th century, and doctors were again treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
Back home however, emergency medicine still didn’t exist as a routine part of our health system. People facing medical emergencies were treated in their homes by family practitioners who made house calls. It wasn’t until doctors began returning from World War II that we realized America needed institutionalized emergency medicine.
Faster Care Saves Lives
Emergency medicine physicians returning home from war knew that faster care saved lives. They had witnessed it firsthand on the battlefield. Their beliefs were further solidified by the mobile surgical hospitals made famous during the Korean War; surgical hospitals that saved countless lives by providing quick, emergency trauma care.
After seeing the power of emergency medicine through three major wars fought over five decades, the medical community sprang into action. According to Managed Care Magazine, the first fully staffed emergency department opened in 1961 in Alexandria, Virginia.
That first ED inspired a group of 23 doctors in Michigan to establish a second emergency department at Pontiac General Hospital. The same doctors went on to create the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) after realizing that medical schools did not offer specialized emergency medicine training. The ACEP went on to establish the American Board of Emergency Medicine in 1976, making emergency medicine an officially recognized medical specialty.
Emergency Medicine Today
It’s safe to say that most of us take emergency medicine for granted in 2019. Our emergency departments, staffed by a virtual army of nurses, advanced practice nurses, staff doctors, and locum tenens provide care for millions of patients every year. They do so with a great deal of knowledge and skill made possible by quality education programs and exceptionally high standards of care.
The need for emergency medicine today is as critical as it has ever been. Patients visit the emergency room suffering from broken bones and severe lacerations. They come in suffering from heart attacks, strokes, and drug overdoses. And through it all, emergency medicine physicians and nurses step up and provide the fast, urgent care wartime doctors discovered saves more lives.
You’re Doing Excellent Work
What we know about the history of modern emergency medicine suggests that getting to where we are today was no easy row to hoe. It has taken a lot of time, effort, and resources to create what is now considered among the best emergency medicine experiences in the world.
If you are an emergency medicine nurse or doctor, whether you are hospital staff or locum tenens, you are doing excellent work. You are practicing medicine in a way that saves lives on the brink of being lost. And despite the high-pressure environment in which you work, you do it all with genuine concern in your hearts. What was birthed from a crisis of need you have turned into so much more.