Health Career Center

Disaster Medical Specialists

Disaster medical specialists are doctors who treat life-threatening emergencies. They often assist government agencies responding to natural disasters and other emergencies with mass casualties.

When preparing for mass casualties, disaster medical specialists design plans for these 3 phrases:
  • Pre-disaster preparation
  • Patient treatment at disaster scenes
  • Transportation of disaster victims
Additionally, disaster medical specialists often treat patients at emergency sites. When patients' conditions are stabilized, they're transported to hospitals. They also supervise paramedics, EMTs, and other disaster medicine specialists. Many disaster medicine specialists are assigned to emergency rooms.

Working Conditions
Disaster medicine is very difficult and stressful. Disaster medical specialists are required to treat dying people and coordinate treatment efforts during natural disasters. It can also be dangerous since they typically work in unsterile, dirty, and chaotic environments. During natural disasters, disaster medical specialists work long days and experience sleep deprivation.

Disaster medical specialists typically serve as volunteers during natural and other disasters. When not volunteering, they treat patients in hospitals and medical clinics. Many government agencies hire full-time disaster medical specialists.

Career Training and Education
Disaster medicine is fairly new, so few disaster medicine programs exist. Disaster medicine specialists are doctors, so they must complete 4 years of medical school, followed by a residency.

During disaster medical training, students will be required to complete field and classroom training. During these programs, students are sent to disaster sites to assist victims.

Disaster medical specialists often specialize in certain types of emergencies, such as car accidents. The American Board of Disaster Medicine administers board certification in this field. If you're interested in disaster medicine, volunteer with organizations that respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. You'll learn invaluable knowledge and skills.
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