6 Emergency Medicine Subspecialties and Where You Can Find Employmenthorizontal line

Physicians practicing in all areas are important, but emergency medicine physicians are some of the most essential medical professionals in the healthcare industry. As an emergency medicine physician, you have the job of providing medical care to people who are in immediate need of medical attention. Because of this, you’re usually the first type of physician that someone in need sees when they’re experiencing life-threatening injuries, illnesses, and other conditions. The nature of this job is very fast-paced, but you’re also very likely to find employment— even if you’re trained in one of these subspecialties.

#1: Critical Care Medicine

Critical care medicine, also known as intensive care medicine, focuses on seriously ill patients whose illnesses and/or injuries may be life-threatening. Their patients are usually people who have multiple organ dysfunction or are trauma victims. This subspecialty required emergency medical physicians to be well-versed in:

When specializing in this area of emergency medicine, you’re most likely to find work in the intensive care unit of a hospital. You may also work alongside a patient’s primary care physician and other specialists, but your main workplace will be a hospital.

#2: Emergency Medical Services

Emergency medical services, also known as EMS, are emergency treatments given outside of a hospital setting (also known as a pre-hospital setting). This subspecialty of emergency medicine requires the special knowledge of delivering medical care to those in need outside of a hospital, including treatment, stabilizations, and transportation in an ambulance or helicopter to a hospital. Prehospital settings can include and are not limited to:

  • Patient homes
  • Public places (e.g., grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centers, etc.)
  • Wilderness settings

The workplaces of EMS physicians can vary, but they’re usually providing medical care in an ambulance and/or in a home where paramedics are called.

#3: Medical Toxicology

Medical toxicology is a special branch of emergency medicine that seeks to evaluate, treat, and prevent illness and injury from exposure to drugs, chemicals, and biological or radiological agents. The main areas of medical toxicology include:

  • Venomous stings and bites
  • Hazardous materials and chemicals
  • Environmental and workplace exposures
  • Drug abuse, addiction, and withdrawal
  • Adverse drug events
  • Acute drug poisoning

Emergency medicine physicians who specialize in medical toxicology usually find work in academic, governmental, and public health settings. They may also be found working in clinical settings, such as rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and outpatient facilities.

#4: Palliative and Pain Medicine

Both palliative and pain medicine aim to treat patients experiencing pain from certain illnesses and injuries, but palliative medicine also includes a more holistic approach that also focuses on the physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and psychological needs of the patient and family. Pain medicine can be recommended for both patients with a terminal illness or those living with another type of chronic pain, while palliative medicine is usually reserved for those with a terminal illness. Emergency medicine physicians specializing in palliative medicine are likely to find employment in hospice settings, while those specializing in pain Med once can find work in hospitals and outpatient settings.

#5: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

As the name suggests, pediatric emergency medicine is a subspecialty of emergency medicine that treats infants, children, and sometimes even adolescents. Because general emergency medicine focuses on treating adults, there needs to be a subspecialty that focuses on treating children in emergency settings. Pediatric emergency medicine can include critical care medicine, emergency medical services, medical toxicology, palliative medicine, pain medicine, and sports medicine, and can find work in a variety of clinical settings. Because children’s bodies are much different from adults, special qualifications have to be warned to properly treat this age group.

#6: Sports Medicine

Sports medicine is a subspecialty of emergency medicine and other medical specialties that focuses on treating and preventing injuries associated with both sports and exercise. This subspecialty also involves the treatment and management of diseases and illnesses that may harm physical performance. Some of the most common job settings include:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Professional sports organizations
  • Private practices
  • Medical clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Colleges and universities


As mentioned earlier, working as an emergency medicine physician means that you’re likely to be working in a very fast-paced environment. However, subspecialties such as medical toxicology and palliative medicine tend to be more routine than the other types of specialties. Your education as an emergency medicine physician will largely determine what type of environment you’ll work in, but you can also consider switching subspecialties to change your work environment.

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