Occupation Thesaurus Entry: E.R. Physician

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

writing, character occupationsEnter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Emergency Room Physician

Overview:  An ER Physician is a doctor specially trained in trauma who assesses and stabilizes patients admitted to the ER. Different from a trauma surgeon, a ER physician will order lab tests and ex-rays (and interpret the results), administer medication, and deal with a large variety of injuries and illnesses. They may do basic emergency surgery in crisis situations, but with a focus on stabilization so other specialists can then take over. They can carry out or oversee life-saving procedures, set broken bones, attend to lacerations, and refer patients to appropriate medical departments for further treatment (or discharge them as needed). ER Physicians must also keep accurate records of all treatment, tests, and medicines to ensure correct insurance reimbursement (if applicable).

Note: hospitals themselves may determine the type of injuries seen most often in the ER. Depending on geography, designation, and other factors, some may deal with more trauma and violence-related injuries than others.

Necessary Training: Medical programming that covers theory, labs, and clinical rotations at the undergraduate and graduate level, obtaining a M.D. Degree. These doctors then enter into a program for emergency medicine to become board certified. This program can be 36 months in length and includes clinical rotations, training in trauma care, radiology, orthopedics, patient care, emergency room procedures, resuscitation, and pediatric critical care.  E.R. Physicians must be state licensed.

If you are writing about a ER Physician in a real-world location, research the qualifications and duties for that location as this can fluctuate country-by-country.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a knack for languages, basic first aid, charm, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, multitasking, photographic memory, reading people, sewing, strategic thinking

Helpful Character Traits: adaptable, analytical, confident, decisive, disciplined, focused, intelligent, meticulous, observant, patient, persistent, proactive, professional, studious, wise

Sources of Friction: a large-scale crisis with not enough resources and staff to handle it, patients who are violent or unpredictable, patients who are untruthful about their medical history, long hours and exhaustion causing burnout, hospital politics getting in the way of patient care, uninsured patients and moral dilemmas, a staff shortage due to illness, egos causing relationship fallout among staff, office romances and bad judgement, mislabeled medicines or errors on charts that lead to medical crises, a staff member who is an angel of death, having a patient who is a celebrity or high-profile criminal and dealing with reporters or fans trying to gain access, family drama, patients who try to resist care, grieving family members suing for a wrongful death, developing PTSD and trying to hide it, having a patient come in that one knows (especially a close family member in crisis), misdiagnoses, sending someone home who later dies, arguments after the fact over how an incident or procedure was handled, staff members who self-medicate to cope, medicines, equipment, or supplies being stolen, arguments in the waiting room, diseases or viruses which are passed on due to unknown contagions at the time

People They Might Interact With: other doctors, surgeons, nurses, support staff, police, paramedics, police detectives, family members, insurance representatives, security personnel, pharmacy and medical company reps, delivery people, hospital board members, hospital employees

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Physiological Needs: Exposure to contagions put one at risk for illness, and stress, lack of sleep, and other factors can cause serious physical repercussions to one’s health.
  • Safety and Security: violent patients could create ER escalations that cause injury or death, grieving family members could act on a vendetta for the loss of a loved one, a questionable diagnosis, lawsuit, or complaint could threaten job security.
  • Love and Belonging: The long hours and high stress leave little time for love and family. Many broken or distanced relationships and divorces result from too much sacrificed time invested in this career.
  • Esteem and Recognition: A lawsuit or accusation could drag one into the court system or damage one’s reputation with one’s peers and the community. Age, the onset of an illness, or another factor could also cause one’s skills to grow less sharp, leading to self-esteem issues as one begins to contemplate if one is still able to do one’s job well.
  • Self-Actualization: This career requires sacrifices, often of other needs. This could lead to the character experiencing regret later in life for the opportunities missed, especially if one chose this career for the wrong reason (such as to make family members proud or for ego, rather than a desire to help others.)

Common Work-Related Settings: Boardroom, break room, emergency room, hospital room, morgue, waiting room

Twisting the Stereotype: ER Physicians are often the “perfect ideal” on steroids–intelligent, fit, the best of the best. Why not choose a ER doctor that has a disability or disfigurement that, rather than hold him or her back, make them exceptional, or the doctor overcomes it through sheer tenacity?



Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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2 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: E.R. Physician

  1. Leslie says:

    I love this!
    Can you do one for Psychic Tarot Card Reader?

  2. :Donna says:

    Another GREAT occupation! Another fanTASTic entry, ladies 😀

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