Disaster Medical Specialist Career Guide


Disaster or emergency medicine is a very interesting and challenging field of the medical industry. Simply put, applying critical medical procedures and techniques in situations of emergencies and disasters is what a disaster medical specialist does. This disaster medical specialist does not practice the full extent of their skills every day, but is constantly on standby in case of emergencies.

The unique skill-set of disaster medical specialists are most useful during emergency situations such as earthquakes, biological disasters, fires, floods, virus outbreaks, hurricanes, acts of terrorism, or wars. As a matter of fact, when a society’s threat level is raised, disaster medical specialists are kept on standby so that they are ready to be dispatched if needed. The special training, conditioning and skills of a disaster medical specialist set them apart from regular medical physicians.

The goal of every disaster medical specialist is to control and contain casualties, to safely transport victims, and to provide life-saving care to victims as fast as possible. It is a field of medicine that is filled with high paced action, challenges and hopes – a lot of victims will solely rely on your skills and expertise to get them out of trouble. If this is what you wish for in a career, then a disaster medical specialist is what you need to be.

Job Duties

The job duties of a disaster medical specialist largely vary depending on the type of disaster, the extent of the damage and the area of specialty. However, there are some duties that are typical to nearly all disaster medical specialists. Use the list below as a reference for understanding the job duties that you may encounter in your line of work.

  1. Do whatever it takes to be alert and updated about current happenings and events that might give you hints on disasters. Information is the key to being first on the scene which should always be your goal
  2. Provide emergency care and physical comfort to victims using medical supplies and pain killers. This also involves techniques to stop the victim’s blood loss and administering critical life saving techniques such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  3. Study methods and techniques that allow for pre-planning. It is necessary for you to pre-develop contingencies, methods and strategies to be ready for disaster when it strikes.
  4. You should be ready with critical medical supplies that can save lives. Depending on the type of threat, you should have readied supplies and kits that are applicable in specific disasters
  5. Administer the appropriate medicines, oxygen and intravenous fluids to bring the victim into a stable condition
  6. You must catalog and document your actions, learning and findings during each disaster so as to be more prepared and ready next time
  7. Routinely inspect medical supplies, equipment and peripherals to ensure they are in working condition. If needed, arrange a replacement or upgrade
  8. Consult with physicians and professionals in a clinical setting. There will be times when you will have to consult with surgeons or specialists and bring them up to speed with certain victims and disasters

Career Outlook

The career for disaster medical specialists is largely dependent on the part of the nation or globe they are situated in. Some places are more prone to disasters owing to harsh climatic changes which include hurricanes, floods, storms and earth quakes. Other places have a high rate of terrorism and crime. Both situations place a high demand for disaster medical specialists.

Disaster medical specialists become active when disaster strikes. During other peaceful times they work regular jobs in the medical industry or elsewhere. Given the changing climate patterns which have caused an increase in earthquakes, floods and storms, the demand for disaster medical specialists is on the rise (bls.gov).

Salary Prospects

The average annual salary for disaster medical specialists is $56,000 (indeed.com). Naturally as your experience level increase by working on a number of disaster and emergency cases, your market value may increase accordingly.

Education Requirements

A diploma or associate’s degree in medicine with a focus on emergency care may serve well as entry level education. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in emergency care. With basic medical education, on-the-job training can be provided to candidates where further academic and practical growth can take place.

The American Academy of Disaster Medicine (aapsus.org/american-academy-disaster-medicine) and the American Board of Physician Specialties (abpsus.org/disaster-medicine) should provide ample information of education, training and certification that may greatly help you in this line of work.

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