The EMRA-sponsored documentary, 24/7/365: The Evolution of Emergency Medicine
, chronicles the story of emergency medicine
from its origin to the revolutionary change it’s had on the American medical landscape today.
Here are six little-known facts the documentary reveals about emergency medicine:
1. Emergency medicine turns 36 this year.
As recently as the late 1940s and early 1950s, emergency departments were nonexistent. Instead, some hospitals had a room in the basement, traditionally called The Pit, where minor surgeries and other emergencies were handled. The Pit was staffed by inexperienced medical interns, creating a trial-by-fire learning experience. In 1979, the American Board of Medical Specialties finally acknowledged emergency medicine as a recognized medical specialty.
2. The first full-time emergency physicians emerged in 1961.
In the 1960s, a rapidly growing number of patients seeking medical treatment for emergency conditions created a need for physicians experienced in emergency medicine. To accommodate the growing demand, hospitals started staffing attending family physicians and other medical specialists on a part-time basis.
A pioneer of this movement was the Pontiac General Hospital in Pontiac, Mich. The hospital implemented the Pontiac Plan, allowing young doctors of any specialty to pick up two or three additional shifts in the emergency department on a monthly basis. Although disparaged for their decision, a small group of physicians in Alexandria, Va., even switched specialties to focus on emergency medicine full time.
3. American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) was founded before emergency medicine was even considered a specialty.
Due to the success of his emergency department, Dr. John Wiegenstein, a pioneer of emergency medicine, created the American College of Emergency Physicians in 1968. ACEP became one of the driving forces toward board specialty status.
4. Vietnam veterans were the inspiration behind the creation of paramedics.
When ambulances were first introduced, they were either stretch Cadillacs or hearses, but were solely used to transport patients to the hospital, providing no on-site medical treatment. However, during the Vietnam War, veterans saw how quickly wounded soldiers could be treated in the field of battle and informed civilians of that benefit when they returned home.
Knowing that a physician didn’t necessarily have to be on the scene to start the process of treating a patient, Dr. Eugene Nagel introduced the idea of connecting first responders with physicians in the hospital to start the process of diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the name paramedic is derived from the medics that would jump with the paratroops in World War II.
5. M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye inspired a new generation of physicians.
Television shows like Emergency
had a strong influence on young premedical professionals. They saw main characters, like Hawkeye, defying authority in order to help their patients.
6. A wristband started hospital reform.
A Memphis, Tenn., emergency medicine doctor started collecting the medical wristbands from patients who were dumped off at the county hospital from the well-funded private hospital six blocks away. He presented the wristbands to congress and helped create the legislation to forbid any hospital from refusing to treat and stabilizing a patient.
Click here to view emergency medicine jobs.